• MJ Fievre

I Will Dance to the Music

1.


A boy named Vincent taught me

how to slow dance,

low dance, & fast dance.

We belted out Salt-N-Pepa,

crooned to Coolio, & swooned to the New Kids

on The Block.

We played our music loud,

so the bass thumped in our sternums.

We were too young for the dance club,

but we imagined

dirty neon lights dangling from ceiling beams

that flickered on & off without rhythm,

wriggly wires like crooked chicken bones

strung together. I could

hear the music in my chest, vibrating, waiting,

a wave that would flatten my thoughts, wash

them away with a mindless, insistent staccato.

I wanted to be the pulse of this music

—as it pulled me out of myself, unhooked pelvises,

butts pivoting on their axes. Cocktail

stirrers littering the dance floor,

like discards in a game

of Pick-Up Sticks.

Every evil thought in my head

dropped in the rhythm.

When anxiety creeps from the base of my skull,

& makes my scalp tingle & tighten, when it swells

beneath my breastbone, I turn on the radio, close

my eyes & walk into the music, into shadows

of imagined night clubs, & sticky nights

press against my skin, until perspiration beads

my upper lip. In the musical based on my life,

the voice of the lead singer is strong

& unlabored even when stretching for notes

in upper registers. I hang on every phrase,

awaiting the next pause, streak or curve.

There is a rhythm in my movements.

I am a pulse.



2.


In the plume of heat that engulfs

the afternoon air, Hialeah

parades down Calle Ocho.

The city is a livewire, flicking like a dare.

Pockets of worry have been torn

from sweat-soaked shirts,

& I’ve found something

inside myself,

asleep for so very long

I don’t know the word for it.

But there must be a word for it.


You forget your troubles,

like a single clove

hidden

among the soggy chunks

of eggplant & okra

in the legumes

they sell at the food stand.


The beat of the band

becomes hands on your hips,

& you forget about gravity.

You fall into me,

your soles slipping

on jagged terrain.


As you dance, you lean back

into my chest

& I don’t know your name yet,

but allow the back of your head

to nestle in my sternum.


You find something inside yourself,

asleep for so very long

you don’t know the word for it.

But there must be a word for it.


There’s a word

for most things in the world

But we both know

some things are indefinable,

untranslatable,

unspeakable.

The word is lost,

forgotten,

almost remembered,

almost found.

Sanctified.


In the plume of heat that engulfs

the afternoon air,

you are a livewire

flicking like a dare.



3.


Port-au-Prince erupts in an ecstatic

fête of pulsating music & swirling

dancers. Carnival: Thousands of frantic

souls in the Champ-de-Mars—marching, bouncing.

Blur of colors—purple for justice, green

for faith & gold for power. Beads. Feathers.

Sequins. Glitter. Majestic kings & queens.

The introverted become merry makers.

Jenny & I shake rainbow maracas,

both frightened & elated. We hardly

breathe, swallowed by this bacchanalian mass,

this colorful crush of humanity.

We throng among the glamorous & keen,

the bizarre, the hungry, the in-between.

The bizarre, the hungry, the in-between

dance to rara rhythms & spicy sounds.

Revelers as we’ve never before seen

trail the bann a pye on the heated ground.

We drink Prestige beer & smoke unfiltered

cigarettes. Forget heartache & raw pain.

We follow the hordes of dancers, slathered

in body paint, oil & mud—we’re insane.


Nèg Gwo Siwo lead the parade, bodies

coated with tallow, cane syrup & sweat,

entranced in the pure rasin melodies,

the deep rhythm of trombones & trumpets.

We lose ourselves in the Carnival.

In the delirious crowd, ça n’ va pas mal.



4.


The music man sits in his wicker chair. Hands trace

intricate patterns, directing an orchestra.

Music sheets nap on top of a piano

in the corner of his studio. He sees

his wife knitting on the red

padded sofa, feels her silent anticipation.


He French kisses his shiny saxophone

blows a tentative do, ré, mi.

The notes tremble, then with deep

clarity, reach out

& wrap themselves around him.


Eyes downcast,

he commands the music like a snake

charmer working a deep trance.

Cheeks puff & fingers glide quickly

along the clean, oiled valves.


He turns into a merman;

shares with the darkness

the elusive beauty of true, clear notes

that ring off the ceiling, that sweat

the moisture of the cool April night.


The melody lifts out the window, past

the coconut & palm trees,

down the ravine,

to the dark paved road;

the sax coaxes the weeds,

& calls to Baron Samedi

in the cemetery beyond,

burnished & brooding,

ripples the still

surface of the mosquito-dotted lake

on the edge of the city,

green water merging with the night.


His music is the heartbeat of a last kiss.

His eyes see his beloved

on that sofa, trace the curves

of her flowered dress

& robust shoulders,

as her lips smooth

into the shapes of love.


His lips barely touch the mouthpiece,

his tongue teases

the metal into looping percussion,

into a waterfall of clearing rainbows

pouring into the soul,

an evening adieu.


***

(Cover art for this poem by Frank Morrison)

An excerpt from Happy, Okay?: Poems about Anxiety, Depression, Hope, and Survival


Confront Depression, Anxiety, Grief, and Loss through Poetry


Are the usual depression books helping you find a path to healing? No? Try this poetry collection especially for those dealing with mental illness and for people closest to them.


Create hope for the future. Paloma is faking it. On the outside, she’s A-Okay. She’s electrified at work, there is a cadence in her step as she walks her dog, she posts memes on Facebook, and she keeps up with most relationships. Looks can be deceiving, however. Inside, Paloma is just going through the motions, and she feels like things are spiraling out of control. But when things are at their darkest, dawn arrives with clarity and focus, and with it, healing. Paloma learns to value small glimmering moments of joy rather than searching for constant happiness, thus building hope for her future.

A manifesto for life. Happy, Okay?: Poems about Anxiety, Depression, Hope, and Survival is not simply a narrative spun in verse by a masterful poet. It is an invitation to readers to shake off the stigma and silence of mental illness and find strength in the only voice that matters: your own. It can be an electric roadmap to healing and a manifesto for wholeness.

In this inspiring and heartwarming book, you will:

  • Understand how to make happiness a decision, even when you don’t feel it in your bones

  • Find out how to exercise patience and self-acceptance

  • Attract hope and purpose back into your life


Fans of Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur, The Witch Doesn’t Burn in this One by Amanda Lovelace, Depression & Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim, Our Numbered Days by Neil Hilborn, or Nothing is Okay by Rachel Wiley will love Happy, Okay? by M.J. Fievre.


© 2019 by MJ Fievre