Garth Greenwell has recent poems in Salmagundi, TriQuarterly, Poetry International, New Orleans Review, and elsewhere. He has received the Grolier Prize and the Rella Lossy Award, and this summer was the John Atherton Scholar in Poetry at Bread Loaf. He teaches at Greenhills School in Ann Arbor.
Though the doors stand open to the night and in Michigan
in October the night is cool, their hundred
and more bodies sweat in torrents as they dance.
Sweat spreads its shadows on their clothes,
it blooms in the soil of the air. You stand motionless,
pretending you donít feel (however powerfully you feel)
the drag of the music beating at them hard,
teaching them to move in ways animal
and obscene. The boys take hold of them from behind,
they thrust into them and grind; the girls
bend at the waist and thrust back at them and grind.
And this is their dance. They avert their faces
from each other; in the unacquainting dark
they practice fucking without names. Their bodies steam;
the walls and windows run with condensation.
They ignore you warily. And you, you strive not to feel
coiling predatory about your bowels
what you cannot help but feel. They must be
hard. They must, moving like that, be staining themselves
with need. You press your back to the wall. Then,
in the far corner, the one whose form
you realize only now youíve tracked minutely in the dark
as he shifts between partners, ungraceful, large,
peels his drenched shirt off and pulls it tight
above his head. And for a moment, before you intervene,
just for a moment you imagine yourself close,
breathing in the heat of him, your hand on his lips, your face
buried in the pit of his arm. Now, as you move,
bodies uncoupling quickly before you, you steel yourself
with something you hope passable for rage, which,
turning his bright face to yours, he pretends to believe is rage.