October 14, 2007

Teaching My Students Prosody

                                             My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.

My hands have tried
conducting your eyes to follow feet, tried to lead
you fox-trotting through mysteries of scansion:
"Listen: it's got a good beat."

How can I skate you on this ice
shinier than the glaze upon your eyes,
and get your limbs to pump to organ music
until they can waltz to the pure swing of melody
and sing, sure of it?

the slowing pulse--
numbering you to sleep
cradled in arms, a wrist beside your ear;

or the tapping in your chest
when you first knew a lie--
the smashed window or someone's "lost"
watch you stole--was contraband with which you could get away.

And getting away: feeling a heart race
in its bare chest on your bare chest
holding a heart syncopating upon that other,
both fluttering in a timeless quickstep
while, pounding, out in the parlor, the pendulum
tells your nerves each step your mother steps
as she trots home with some new shirts
she's picked out just for you, and the big clock
counts Stop Stop Stop Stop.

And suddenly it's you quickening the click of your
steps to the beat of your
blood, and clutching the shirts you bought for your
child, and
today school gets out early.
(Remember counting, pushing
the tiny body bloodily out
and feeling, at last, relief.)

Stately dance
your daughter up the aisle. Abandon her,
then glide
her in the final waltz that will elide
her from your arms forever.

the long steps following your father. Approach
the space, and count your pummeling pulse. Confront
the coffin
with spade after spade after spade of dirt
until it eludes your sight, in the only place
counting stops.

—Jay Rogoff
Reprinted from How We Came to Stand on That Shore (Montgomery, AL: River City, 2003). Copyright © 1986, 2003 by Jay Rogoff.

Posted by dwaber at October 14, 2007 01:17 PM