Man Dancing with a Baby

Before balance, before counting, before
The record glistens and the needle slides,
Grating, into the overture, there is the end
Of weight, the leaning into nothing and then

A caught breath, the record listens, the needle slides
Over slowly, and all at once around us a woman’s voice
Stretches weightless, leaning into nothing.
Like a clothesline, the taut chorus: oh, hilarious

Oh baby, all around us, over slowly, a woman’s voice
Gathers above the pick me up, pick me up
And the desperate put, put me down. First the tightrope,
Then the light foot, and the taunting chorus

Pick me up, pick me up. Oh, oh baby.
The slippery floor shimmers and spins like a record while
The light is swinging footloose on its rope
Out of time. The shadows

Slip, shimmering black, and spin across the floor,
Then turn back and pick up again. Oh seedpod stuck for just
One moment on the cattail, out of time, out of shadows,
Downy cheek against a beard: oh scratches

On the record, oh baby, oh measure
Oh strange balance that grips us
On this side of the world.

Susan Stewart, “Man Dancing with a Baby” from The Hive. Copyright © 1987 by Susan Stewart. Reprinted with the permission of The University of Georgia Press.
Source: The Hive (University of Georgia Press, 1987)
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