The Don’t Look Dance

July 18, 2011

On Sunday nights we would sit
in a paisley lounge with coke and lilt.
My mother would have a Barley wine,
my father a beer or tomato juice.

And we would watch:
Hercule Poirot,
Miss Marple, Morse,
Inspector Wexford.

And the light would bathe us
like a family of moles,
our coffee table like a tiny throne,
the frames on the walls would softly glow,
my brother and I, in uniforms.

But my mother would sit on the edge of her seat
and as the music flickered to the murder scene,
she would be up and on her feet,
closing the distance from sofa to screen,
holding her skirt like a crinoline shield
and doing, the don’t look dance.

My mother would do the don’t look dance
in front of our analog telly,
she’d hold up her skirt like a sunray,
her floral print for Marilyn’s pleats.

And behind the skirt
was Inspector Hastings,
a body in a stairwell,
blood on a carpet.

Behind her skirt
were the Brixton riots
and the miners strike
and Chernobyl exploding.

My mother would do the don’t look dance,
she would dance the hono loo loo

and anything with
shards or knives,
or anything with blood,
would be flowers or stripes
or polka dots –

something comfortable,
something good,

like the fish we’d had for lunch,
with parsley sauce and mash,

or the visit to Clarks
to measure our feet,

the coats she bought
to keep us clean –

and in the evenings
the way she’d stand
in front of the screen,

like a lunar eclipse,
a disturbing dream.

And behind her skirt
was Michael Buerk
in 1985, in Ethiopia.

Behind her skirt
was the boy next door
and grandma’s dementia,
my brother’s leukeumia.

My mother would dance
a Torvell and Dean
for famine and suffering
and war torn fields.

My mother would do
a jazz hands shimmy
for Malaria, Typhoid
and malnutrition.

My mother would do the don’t look dance
in front of our bubble TV
and she’d hold out her skirt
like a fire curtain,
her floral prints
for Monroe’s pleats.

She’d hide me from all of the hurting,
she’d cover the wounds of the world,
she’d fill that small room with her caring,
but I never understood.

My mother would do the don’t look dance,
the don’t look dance,
the don’t look dance.

My mother would do the don’t look dance,
but now, I can’t look away.

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One Response to “The Don’t Look Dance”

  1. jaynestanton said

    I loved hearing you read this last Wednesday, Lydia.
    Has your Mum heard/read it yet?

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