Nocturne with Awkward Dancing by Allison Joseph


Nocturne with Awkward Dancing
Allison Joseph

What is it about nighttime that makes me
turn the music–any music–up way past
respectable to shuffle into the kitchen

to slide, reach, and bend, to pirouette
like a drunken ballerina? Something about
nighttime’s hazy light and candlewicks

turns up my rhythms and down my
inhibitions, footsteps freer while the rest
of you snore and toss in sweaty bedclothes.

This dancing insomnia, this fitful 1-2 step,
gives me a kind of inflatable joy, fever
of visions and bare feet, toes clinging

to unwashed linoleum, arms flung out,
back, shoulders rolling forward. I’m
an unruly earthquake, unstopped geyser,

planet set loose from gravity, body giddy
with relief from shame’s daily mandates.
Easier to sing and shimmy under invited

shadows, to be this untethered child
when the refrigerator’s hum is all
the applause I need, or want. So if

you stumble upon me, spinning
like the world’s worst dervish,
don’t, I beg, turn on the light.

Leave me, body haunted by percussion,
to spin myself silly, turn myself out,
legs testing every motion daytime shuns.


Allison Joseph lives, writes and teaches at Southern Illinois University, where she’s on the creative writing faculty. Her most recent books are My Father’s Kites (Steel Toe Books) and Trace Particles (Backbone Press).

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