For Rita Dove

I have never been a good dancer.
I am when I’m alone.
I can dance.
Hands in the air,
waving, triumphant.
Who let the dogs out?
You bet I did.

I have always felt like the spotlight
was on me
when I stepped on the dance floor
in the middle of the room,
usually in a hall.
Rented, carpeted.
Tux on, Tie on.
The spotlight was always on me.

And I didn’t want it on me.
I couldn’t raise my hands in the air, and wave
them around in abandon.
I was self-obsessed.
How dumb do I look like right now?
Am I sweating? are they laughing?
I hate this song, why am I still dancing?

I don’t want to do this.
I feel stupid. Look now they
are laughing ’cause I am not wanting to dance.
I say, I hate this song, ’cause I do.
She says I look robotic.

I hate dancing.
But when I am alone, I dance.
I dance, I jump around, I get down.
In public, I am restrained, left alone,
cameras clicking,
not wanting to be.
Usually wanting to leave.

Wondering when the carpet got shampooed last
And whether the hall is haunted.


Jason Wright is the editor and founder of Oddball Magazine. His column appears weekly. His new book is Train of Thought.