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Contra Dancing After Divorce

A poem by Shuly Xóchitl Cawood.

People enjoying dancing at a dance club. Motion blur of pink flying skirt captured in camera by using slow shutter speed.

All the dances where you showed up hoping to meet someone
or you had met someone and hoped to see them on that wooden floor,
under those bright lights—somewhere in the bubbling crowd—
or you had broken up with someone or they had ended it with you
and you hoped to God you would not cross them in any long line.

All the laces you tied, the socks you pulled on, the tank tops
you sweated through. Nothing could have prepared you
for what you would become: someone who needed speed, who never
sat out, who could twirl without the help of a man cranking your hand.

You didn’t know then what you would tolerate: the square dances, the off-key
fiddle, the tempo too slow to go anywhere good. You drove to any dance
along I-40: in gyms and theaters, in community rec centers, in barns
and churches. No one told you that prayers are the same everywhere

but you knew, standing on a sprung floor, if the music were about to begin,
so were you. Molting toward tomorrow. The song lilting. Someone flipping
on a fan to make the world swirl. Somewhere in the distance

a caller no longer told you what to do.
You lifted off. You pulled through.