Some thoughts on ‘Dancing With Life’ by Shauna Darling Robertson

For me, poetry is a kind of Russian Roulette. Often, when I pull a poem’s metaphorical trigger, nothing much happens and I move on, unaffected. But, when the chamber turns out not to be empty, the poem explodes ideas and images and emotions into my head and I need to sit for a while and watch the show and wait for some kind of meaning to emerge, the way my vision returns after looking into a too-bright light.

Today’s bullet was supplied by Shauna Darling Robertson. an English poet who writes poems for adults and children and who, it turns out, lives only ten miles away from me in Frome in Somerset.

Her poem, ‘Dancing With Life’, took hold of my hand, pulled me out of my seat and dragged me onto the dance floor after it.

I don’t dance. On my best days, I’m capable of a good head nod and a foot tap and maybe a little above-the-waist shimmying but my legs never join in. They’ve taken a stand against getting lost in the rhythm and are not to be moved.

So dance isn’t a natural metaphor for me. But that’s the thing about poetry, it takes you places you might never otherwise get to.

My won’t-dance approach to life partly reflects my disappointment and anger at a world that seems to be moving backwards but is mostly the product of fear: of embarrassment, of letting go, of not being able to let go, of connecting to something that I can’t have. Typical sad old fart stuff.

It’s not that I don’t like dancing, I love to watch my wife dance. It lights her up and I bask in her glow. It’s a sort of secondary happiness that comes from standing near someone who is lost in the music and their own joy.

So, when I read, ‘Dancing With Life’, I thought, ‘I’d like to do that. If only I was brave enough. Which I’m not. But I can, at least, imagine it and tap my foot and nod my head in sympathy.

Here’s the peom. See if you’d also like to dance like this.

‘Dancing With Life’ by Shauna Darling Robertson

I called to the floor
missed buses and lost races.
We body-poped til sore.

I held out my hand
to every failed exam.
We lindy-hopped. We can-canned.

I slipped my arm around the waist
of chicken, loser, nerd.
We skip-jived at a pace.

I chose the longest dullest week
and pressed it to my chest
as we cha-cha’d cheek to cheek.

I tipped and doffed my hat
to a hundred horrid haircuts.
We mambo’d, tango’d, tapped.

Feeling bold, I turned to face
my darkest, rawest faults.
I took them in my arms. We bowed
and broke into a waltz.

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