Dance with Me by Anne McMaster

Something has carved a space within us.
We resonate hollow, now, as we have never done before;
we are as slow, mournful tolling bells who can hear each other ring.One warm May morning, I wake having remembered. I am 19 years old.
In a club. Bruce Springsteen’s ‘The River’ begins to play –
and my brand new boyfriend walks me to the floor.We have not danced before. This is a new connection. In my dress and heels,
I am unsure – teetering on every edge of discomfort –
but his hand is on the arc of my waist and he draws me in;
my arms rising to the smooth planes of his shoulders.
We talk, dance slowly, and talk again.
This is a gentle movement, ocean deep, of resonance and connection;
words spoken and anticipated in the space between.
That night I am giddy with his breath; the warmth of his skin and very pulse of him.

It has stayed with me since; this memory of connection – this togetherness.
Was it the moment, he music and nothing more?
I turn to Google and the history of dance.
Do French people dance? it asks me. Google, my friend, I will answer you, I reply.
The French, as it turns out, have danced for a very long time.

The Gavotte – lines of circles made up of pairs
switching effortlessly between each other with a little hop.
The Tourdion – another hop – and a little livelier now – with a slight kick,
the Bal-Musette (its music still played on the streets of Paris) and
the Farandole with a skip – and a hop – in every other step.

Dance is our body’s language. Moving in and back. Down, across and through.
Observing and relating. Guiding. Matching each another. Sharing a mutual space.
Careful observation enhancing and expressing our intricate connection.
Coming to know each other in the space that we are.

And this is what is gone.

I cannot hug you now. Brush casually past you with a quick apology,
hold your hand to tell you everything will be ok.
Lean in to whisper. Touch your fingers. Shake your hand. Gently pat your arm.
I judge a stranger based on the distance they maintain.
I smile at friends I once would have pulled so close to my heart.
My steps through a store have become as intricate
as any Regency Cotillion, Quadrille or the Waves of Tory.
I step towards you – and you step back.

Yes, something has carved a space within us.
We resonate hollow, now, as we have never done before;
we are as slow, mournful tolling bells. But we hear each other ring.

Anne McMaster is a poet who lives on an old farm in the north west. Her work has been published widely in journals in the UK, Ireland and America. Her debut collection poems ‘Walking off the Land’ will be published by Hedgehog Poetry Press late autumn 2020.


  1. A beautiful evocation of dance and all the tactile things we miss.

  2. Your poem is a dance, and to dance is to live. Beautiful, Anne.

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