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DANCING / David St. John Home from school I found As I found every day The door to his room closed & behind it Faint music playing On a tiny record player The kind favored in the 50s By teen-age girls & I knew my grandfather was dancing Leather bedroom slippers rasping Over the wood floor Arms hooked in the air Around his imaginary partner As he practiced the steps to those Dances he loved labeling each 45 With a strip of white adhesive tape On which he'd print in ballpoint Cha-cha fox trot samba tango waltz & each Friday night he'd drive off In his salmon-pink Studebaker To the Elks Club or The Rainbow Ballroom Where in his silk shirts & wildly Patterned ties he'd take A few turns out on the floor His white hair slicked grandly back His gold-rimmed spectacles so polished They'd flash with the rhinestones Of his partners' crude tiaras & at 1 or 2 A.M. I'd wake up as the front door closed Listening as he felt his way In the dark along The narrow hallway leading to our rooms Until at last he'd bump quietly Into my door move slightly To his left & find his own room & I'd hear the lights flick on With a solid sigh of accomplishment 10 · The Missouri Review Then the complaint of leather As he settled in his reclining chair— At that late hour & after a night On the town—to reread Some favorite passage of Virgil One afternoon 12 years later on his yearly visit To my grandmother he chatted With a young woman I knew As we sat on the patio overlooking The beds of rose & iris but shakey On his legs he asked if the young woman Might help him on his walk Along those paths that meandered through The thick shrubs & summer foliage & it was a successful walk it seemed Because when they returned My grandfather was beaming though The young woman seemed Confused as she Poured the tea my grandmother Had carried out onto the patio & as we drove away Waving to the two figures standing A few paces apart in the shadow Of the pepper tree The young woman turned to me & said He kissed me on one of the back paths He kissed me on the mouth I thought for a moment & then asked If that was all she looked out The car window at the pines & oleanders In the elegant yards we were passing Then reached over To place her long delicate hand over My own hand where it rested On the steering wheel & smiling said very slowly No He asked if some evening he could take me Dancing David St. John The Missouri Review · 11 THE ASH TREE / David St. John My grandmother led me out Into her garden Its two landscaped acres Its layers of dark fronds rocking Against streaks of waxy iridescence Against the chromatic confusion of Emeralds & jades I was five The frail white bells of the wisteria Lit the length of the terrace eaves & the mums nodded their lavender heads Beside the cool slate patio & the long trailers of the climbing rose Arced through the limbs of the oak Like a sequence of scarlet lips Parting on air at the end Of one of the lawns—endless lawns Sculpted to resemble huge Hans Arp cut-outs floating horizontally On the earth—stood the prize Of my grandmother's garden Her golden ash tree I knew the name of our city meant In Spanish "ash tree" I knew that every spring the parks & avenues blew yellow With leaves & none Was more brilliant nor more Electric than this balloon of ash Suspended in the summer light As we walked back slowly towards The house I looked up At the south face of the living room Its entire wall simply four huge Panes tinted to shield 12 · The Missouri Review The lazy reader from the afternoon Glare & from the lawn One saw only the garden reflected In the black glaze of smoked Glass so before me as behind me The leaves of the ash tree shook Like the gloved hands of puppets Like Aztec stars of the thinnest Beaten gold it was My grandmother would sometimes say As if each March...


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