Sunday, January 19, 2014

Dancing on coals

Dancing on coals-
9th floor.

The cutter boy extends his hand
callused from working with heavy shears
since the shops reopened a year gone.
Flames are in his dark eyes,
“Gussie, here.”
I can hardly breathe, so I only nod
and take his hand.
Morris leads me into a dance, wild, and racing
I have to catch up the hem of my skirt
so as not to fall and be trampled.
Things are too crowded by the doorways:
no room for two more bodies there.
My breath catches in my throat,
the clamor is growing,
the windows are all open to dusk-grey air.
My shoes are too small and not made
for dancing on coals.
My feet burn as I stumble.
“Morris, I need air, I need—out.”
There are bonfires in his eyes, his face is glowing
and he nods, still holding my hand.
As we push through to one window
where the air is cooler,
he helps another girl up onto the ledge,
then another,
so they can breathe as well.
I raise a hand to his cheek,
my feet are burning and now my eyes as well.
I have only known him for this year,
when he delivered shirtwaists to my table.
But I want to be beside him
and he knows without saying.
He bows, then helps me to stand,
my hands shaking,
in the window frame.
I put my arms around him,
and kiss him long
longer than we have.
The flames behind us are growing.
My eyes find his, and
he lets me go, then follows me.
It does not take a long time to fall to the ground

even from nine stories up.

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