Dancers at the Caravan Cattle Co., Tulsa OK

Both are barely 5’6, though his hat
Adds 6 inches to his height. They are slender,
His buckle like a giant pull tab
On a paper doll, her hair the color of soured milk.
They dance effortlessly, slowly with short steps,
Without improvisation or flourish.

They appear to have come from a Grateful Dead concert,
His Jerry Garcia bear hair and her gypsy skirt
Out of place in the country bar. She weighs twice
What he does, though he has a beer belly straining
His tie-dyed shirt. They swing and pivot and twirl,
Unconcerned about their oddity, caught up in the dance.

Young and hesitant, they are learning, his feet
Consistently going wrong, their steps rarely in tune,
His hand on her shoulder a light presence she probably
Does not even feel, which is the problem. Lead. Lead.
And she will follow. Put your hand firmly in the smooth
Curve of her back and show her what to do, young man.

Laughter in the man’s bent posture and joy in the woman’s,
The two shuffle quickly around the edge of the dance floor
And in each corner stop to go rockabilly, the girl’s blonde hair
Streaming down over her face as he lifts her feet first
Into the air, his white cowboy hat bent back, perpendicular
To the floor, secure on his laughing head as she is
In his capable arms. They look like brother and sister.

Both grey-haired, immaculately dressed, she in a dark skirt
And a sequined red blouse, he in starched jeans and beige shirt.
They obviously can do anything and have for many years.
They dance every song—a waltz, a two-step, a swing,
A cotton-eyed-Joe, even the line dances. They have come
In from the country, their house on a prairie horizon,
Their rhythm in the place without borders.

–Shaun Perkins

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