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Some nights I sleep in my tuxedo.
My fingers untie the bow-tie
in my sleep as if I were
swooning to the tune of Begin the Beguine.
The pain in my hip goes away,
a rapture divine
of fried chicken in a roadside diner.
A song of tropical splendor
comes from an old jukebox
straight from the 1930s.

Powell and Astaire appear
on a winding staircase.
The threads of my dreams
take me back to the two-lane highway
on the way to Baton Rouge, snaking through
the swamps and cypress trees, swearing
my love would last forever
in that smoky bar where we met
over a bourbon and Coke,
kissing each kiss as if it were
another kind of dance on the teeth
of our deaths far ahead of us.

I’ve seen people die from clutching
gold coins too tightly. I’d rather fling them
from the caboose of a train
crossing the Mississippi River
over the old Slidel Bridge, and there,
tap-dancing on those steel girders,
Eleanor and Fred
dancing at the speed of light and the world
surrounding all of us shrinks
to the size
of a peppercorn.

I join them for a moment, tap-dance
between them, an apparition they hardly expected,
an ember between the fires of their love,
and then, in my tuxedo, I dive into the river,
swim the Australian crawl
like Johnny Weismuller
promising the girl in the bar
to kiss her until my mouth falls off,
until the dance of death takes us,
never never to part.


Poem by Jack Grapes

Translated by Vera Linder

Read in Italian:

Danzare tra gli incendi dell’amore