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Waltzing Matilda

by Mary Kinzie

For Della and Alan

One follows the small figures
Out and in, upright in the dance,
Hand painted fast to hand in the bandbox
Gazebo where they waltz with an increasing
Languor, the niceness of the curve

Of each return outdrawn
As if making an allusion
To former sweetness,
Glowing polka or gavotte.

Now the sad little tune slows down
And one looks hard into the other’s face
As if about to seize
The moment when their feet
Shall bring them to stillstanding
To breathe a love as fresh as Cumberland
In adjectives like petals
About to loosen from the rose

Yet ripe with an idea the last note
Emerging with its frail
Rubato out of the run down spring
(Part of some self-conscious lyric

Life will not start again)
Quells with the long-since-ceasing
Ringing of a village bell, God’s
Disappearing clangor like a stiff

Clack that wrinkles the air
In its wake, jagged as the flock
Of jackdaws darkening the square
With its market scaffolds,
The worshippers slipping off

To the Antipodes — the sky! the bush!
Quaint bandbox on the stubbly green,
Music soft with the toot of horns
In the brazen distance, pleasure
Pledged and taken, hand in hand, until

As if abashed by paradox
They all fall mute, the wind
Taken out of them, the dance
Fled on the sandy wind
That coils to the sky, all
The pretty steps like writing only
The limbs can do, only they forget.


Mary Kinzie’s poems have appeared in The New Republic and The New Yorker. Her second volume of poetry, Masked Women, will be published by the Sheep Meadow Press in the spring of 1989. (1990)

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