Saturday, April 2, 2011

Balance / Michael G. Munoz


The piano player plays a French number
Right out of an old black and white French movie
The dancers of my daughter's junior ballet
Pirouette right on cue
While I sit, writing,
In a plastic chair against the wall.
The mothers in the lobby listen to the music,
Intently watching their daughters
Like a tabby watches a sparrow hop.
The teacher yells instruction to keep time.
When I look up, in contemplation,
Mothers smile at me,
I smile back at them.

I used to like this part of town,
Old Torrance.
Pawn shops, dingy hotel rooms, liquor stores,
Vacuum repair, Mexican restaurants,
Locksmiths, used record stores, dark bars.
The town is in its fourth or fifth reincarnation
Having died off many times before
Only to be brought back to life by
Shedding off the Pussycat Theater
And exchanging it with Senior Living Condos
As it waits on the next benevolence of death.

I used to sit in an Irish bar around the corner
For the hour and a half it took
While she danced,
Drinking Guinness with a fatherly devotion
Watching stupid soccer matches between countries
That got mowed down
75 years ago.
But I've stopped drinking for now
And so I wait and try to write
In the front lobby of the Ballet School
But now this room smells sour
Like milk gone bad or maybe it's sweat
Or maybe it's just me.
The accompanist plays another French number
The teacher blares out more instruction
As the music rises and falls.

Now it's my turn . . .
I start to write, furiously,
Trying to keep up to the music.
I try to write a barroom story
But it's hopeless
For there's no art in saloons
The barstool is not an easel
And there's no balance to the stagger of a drunk
No beauty to a woman's dumbstruck melancholic face
No interplay of light and shadows there
Nothing sublime
To the perfect pour of a bartender
Or the mad mad broken-up lovers
Who have just leapt gracefully
Over the edge of their despair and into the streets,
Back to the four walls of loneliness
They call home.

I look up from my pages
Just as my little swan
Leaps and turns,
Her face a rictus of concentration.
She practices at grace,
Practices at the defiance of gravity,
Practices at control and poise,
While I would no more practice at my failures
Than a snake would practice his slither.
And now the music fades on the old spinet piano
And my baby
With a flourish of arms
And the point of her leg
Finishes her dance.

I could write
For a thousand years
And never
In words
The balance of her beauty.

Michael G. Munoz
October 2010
California, U.S.A.

[All rights reserved by the author - Used with permission]

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