The Dancing

By Gerald Stern b. 1925 Gerald Stern
In all these rotten shops, in all this broken furniture
and wrinkled ties and baseball trophies and coffee pots
I have never seen a postwar Philco
with the automatic eye
nor heard Ravel's "Bolero" the way I did
in 1945 in that tiny living room
on Beechwood Boulevard, nor danced as I did
then, my knives all flashing, my hair all streaming,
my mother red with laughter, my father cupping
his left hand under his armpit, doing the dance
of old Ukraine, the sound of his skin half drum,
half fart, the world at last a meadow,
the three of us whirling and singing, the three of us
screaming and falling, as if we were dying,
as if we could never stop—in 1945 —
in Pittsburgh, beautiful filthy Pittsburgh, home
of the evil Mellons, 5,000 miles away
from the other dancing—in Poland and Germany—
oh God of mercy, oh wild God.

Gerald Stern, "The Dancing" from This Time: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1984 by Gerald Stern.  Used by permission of the author and W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Source: This Time: New and Selected Poems (W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1998)

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Poet Gerald Stern b. 1925

Subjects Living, Youth, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Home Life, Social Commentaries, War & Conflict

 Gerald  Stern

Biography

Gerald Stern has been called an “American original,” “a sometimes comic, sometimes tragic visionary,” and, by his friend Stanley Kunitz, “the wilderness in American poetry.” Over dozens of books, and decades of teaching and activism, Stern has emerged as one of America’s most celebrated and irascible poets. “If I could choose one poem of mine to explain my stance,” Stern told Contemporary Poets, “it would be ‘The One Thing in . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Youth, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Home Life, Social Commentaries, War & Conflict

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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