In Praise of the Two-Step

thank you for that time a boy from kansas
asked me to dance, while the brass band played

on the wagon-wheel stage, & the lights
were strung low, & this boy he smelled

like cedar & wool & his two feet did the
two-step while mine did not, mine suddenly

like little blocks of wood attached to my legs
which were also suddenly more wood than body,

so I braced there with my knees knocked back,
no longer able to find the music, but I did find you

there, watching in the grass, twirling a secret gladness
in your fingers, privately gleeful that I did not in fact

know how to two-step with this man, whose name
might have been Jack or Porter, because instead I

would learn how to two-step with you, because you
would teach me in my high brown boots so that my feet

would return from their stint as woodblocks & you, woman,
would dip me at the end & then I would dip you too,

because I’ve always been better at taking weight
than giving my own, but here, I am both thankful &

afraid waking in a late noon sun & calling my friend
with sleep still near my throat, & I boil the water

for one cup of coffee that will very soon be two,
& thank you for that fact & for laughing with me

on a Saturday at my sudden dancing between the
door & mirror, bending deep into my own knees

to admire the tight swivel of my pelvis, rolling
my navel nowhere else but here again, finally—

thank you for sending music just in time,
for playing with me in a helium balloon voice

& crying a slow leak when I read you poems
through the phone, thank you for this telephone

who gives us small bright faces almost touching—
I am thankful for the question can you love someone

this human & it drops from me like a single wing,
how we fold our wings & lay down our teeth,

thank you for this day of talking & singing,
this remedy of 2 fried eggs on toast without butter

because there is no butter left, no better gift
than the word maroon & the oranges you squeezed

saintly every morning for very nearly an entire year,
& the cigarettes you smoked on the stoop while I

in my thick black slumber still slept the sleep of a child
who is no longer a child & yet always & still a child,

& every breath of your skin particularly the skin
of your shoulder joining the pit of my arm, & your mouth

in the early light, hoarse & a little bit dry, praise even
your snot in the chest of my cashmere sweater—

praise inherited cashmere sweaters furring our
cold months—blessed be something soft against

something body & bless too the fact of 5 more nights
without—5 more nights—because anyone can sleep alone

for 5 nights especially on the edgeless back of 1,728 hours,
thank you for showing me who & what I love

in spite of what dies every day, thank you Emily,
oracle, for giving me this excellent ordinary phrase—

this is what you signed up for.

janan alexandra is a Lebanese-American poet and MFA candidate at Indiana University. Her writing is informed by a determined belief in the radical & precise work of paying attention—through both language & rigorous imagination. janan’s poems are interested in the ways that our linguistic choices are overlaid with geography, ecology, trauma, family, & diaspora. For the last three years she has taught poetry & creative writing to youth, & as an undergraduate student she helped to run the Smith College Poetry Center. She has a BA in African-American Studies & Poetry from Smith College & was a 2013 resident at The Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets. Her work can be found in the Adroit Journal, Mizna, Ploughshares, Foothill Journal, & Rusted Radishes, a literary magazine published in Beirut, Lebanon.