Poetry Fiction Issue

The Topaz Room

More than one couple at the Topaz Room this evening
May have quarreled on the long drive over in the rain
About whether moving to a drier climate
And making new friends will leave them happier.
Still they agree, for this evening at least,
That dancing is something they’re willing to try,
Dancing that seems to them like a metaphor
For life lived as it should be lived, in couples,
Under the sway of music they both enjoy.
For them it may be a distant goal, but one day,
If they keep pretending, and luck is with them,
They may feel what the other dancers are feeling now,
Both those favored by luck with the gift
Of moving easily to the music and those
Who still have to watch their feet.
And among the clumsy, isn’t it partly luck
That some can laugh at their awkwardness
While others continue to be embarrassed?
Maybe if luck descends on the quarrelers,
They’ll learn at least to regard unanimity
As a virtue wrong for their private commonwealth,
Too close for comfort to one-party rule,
To tyranny. Dancing together won’t mean
They believe that they’re closing in
On a goal long sought. They’ll be taking their turns
Deciding what music has come from afar
To find them here, just where it left them,
Taking one step forward, one step back.

Presented by

Carl Dennis's Practical Gods received the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2002. His most recent collection of poems, Unknown Friends, was published in April.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Confessions of Moms Around the World

A global look at the hardest and best job ever

Video

A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book

Video

The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"

Video

This Japanese Inn Has Been Open for 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.

More in Entertainment

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In