By Jan Worth-Nelson

I’d already had enough
of sorrow, and maybe that’s why at the outdoor
show I couldn’t sit still on my folding chair
where pandemic style we line up
in a beat-up parking lot, honk for the best riffs and
keep our distance from the trailer stage.
It was old Sam Cooke that got me,
Ramona the blues diva from Toledo stepping over
asphalt chunks to belt from the heart
and also a guy on a three-pronged cane
who staggered out to boogie, grinning and
shuffling to the beat. Who could stay still
for that? Then my friend goes out there,
arthritis be damned, and her man advances, too,
bad knee simply an unwanted comma, and they strip
off masks and ballroom dance
with ponderous charm. An ochre sunset taunts
— cliche of dying light — so finally
I leap out there myself,
circling the others, hooting and laughing and
remembering my hips can shimmy
and I raise my arms overhead and I’m ready to
whoop, and then a woman I don’t know grabs me and
we partner dance, backs touching and turning and
we fling each other out and in, breathless duet, but
I know I’m pushing it,
and then, on one heartfelt twirl, I tumble to the potholed ground.

But I don’t care and I’m still sort of dancing except lost in the dirt, and
a tangle of arms, white and black, gets me upright and then
I’m embarrassed and I remember I’m old
and somebody hands me my cap and I rear up wobbly but
swinging my hips and wailing into all the grief and
what the hell, I go on dancing, my body unchastened and
mad and unspent, until the song ends and my thermos of gin is dry
and it’s almost dark and I go home bruised to restless sleep,
dreaming lamentations for the thousands dead.

Jan Worth-Nelson is an Ohio native, a former newspaper reporter, Peace Corps volunteer,  and for 23 years, a writing teacher and administrator at the University of Michigan-Flint. For years she was a columnist and then editor of Flint’s venerable East Village Magazine,where she continues as occasional contributor and consultant.  She’s the author of the novel Night Blind;  her poems, essays, and fiction have appeared, among others. in Exposition Review, Fourth Genre, Gravel, Hypertext, the MacGuffin, Midwestern Gothic, and in the Belt Flint anthology Happy Anyway. She lives with her husband in a fine old Flint house with two Buddhas in the backyard.