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Dancing with My Sister

29 April, 2016: Dancing with My Sister


by Linda Nemec Foster

Dancing with My Sister

for Deborah
We're not talking those crazy Polish weddings
in Cleveland, where we both learned how to dance,
clutching each other's sweaty hands, galloping
to the Beer Barrel Polka, and trying not to bump
into Uncle Johnnie and his whirling Chicago Hop.
This is now, tonight, in a smoky bar in Detroit
where two women dancing together can scandalize
any pimp within range. Where the hotshot
bartender can mix anything and has the wide eyes
to prove it: bloody mary, wallbanger, a zombie
with a spike of lime that will raise the dead.
Above the crowded dance floor, in the maze
of catwalks, the geek of a lighting man
(who reminds us of every boy in high school
who fast-danced with his hands behind his back)
shines the spotlight right on us. And we glow.
Girl, do we glow. Not for the memory of those
distant high school boys whose faces we can't
remember. Not for the fluid desire ebbing
around us on the floor and beyond where silent
men sit in the dark. We glow for the raw truth
of Aretha's voice spelling out RESPECT;
for the way our hair curls down past our shoulders;
for our legs that can outdance any young thing;
for the miracle that we survived our childhoods—
mother's obsessive cleaning, father's factory shifts,
the Erwin Street mob of pre-juvenile delinquents.
We glow because we came from the same burnt-out dream
of second-generation immigrants and learned to smile
at the closed mouth of loss and dance, dance, dance.
"Dancing with My Sister" by Linda Nemec Foster from Amber Necklace From Gdansk. Louisiana State University Press, 2001. Used by permission of the author.
Linda Nemec Foster was born in Cleveland and grew up in the city╩╝s Slavic Village neighborhood which was illuminated by the orange sky of the factories and steel mills. She is the author of nine poetry collections including Listen to the Landscape (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006) and Amber Necklace From Gdansk (Louisiana State University Press, 2001). Her work has appeared in more than 300 journals – Georgia Review, North American Review, and New American Writing, been translated in Europe, rendered into songs and concert music, and produced for the stage. She has been honored with Pushcart Prize nominations and awards from the Academy of American Poets and the National Writer’s Voice. Foster is the founder of the Contemporary Writers Series at Aquinas College. Poet's website


List as many songs by your favorite musician as you can in five minutes. (Any genre, any style) List seven things that their music is not about, and seven things it is about. Now choose the ten best and try alternating them. Quote one line of one song as the title or last line.

Leonard Kniffel
What beautiful writing. The poem itself dances.
6/10/2016 9:12:03 AM

Linda Nemec Foster
First of all, my apologies for not responding to your comments until now; I was in NYC for a poetry event when my poem went up on the site. Kathleen, I appreciate your wonderful words about my poem--I really admired your poem too that was featured on the website during the first days of April.
And, to CAMS, thanks for your comment! I didn't go to Lourdes but I went to another all-girl Catholic high school: Marymount in Garfield Heights on Granger Road. BTW, it went co-ed in the '70's and is now called Trinity High School. Cheers to Cleveland!!!
5/2/2016 12:43:43 PM

Linda, great poem. Did you go to Lourdes?
4/30/2016 10:38:21 AM

kathleen d gallagher
I LOVE this poem. I have two sisters and I also grew up in a town surrounded by factories and water and all of our weddings had polka in my small town. And I just read a poem this week at a poetry reading about women dancing, so I particularly enjoy this poem. Especially your wonderful ending! Thanks for the moment of reading pleasure this morning with my coffee!
4/29/2016 8:30:38 AM

READ + WRITE: 30 Days of Poetry is a collaboration between Cuyahoga County Public Library and poet Diane Kendig. Our thanks go to Diane and the poets of Northeast Ohio who allowed us to share their poetry.