How It Bends, How It Curves

flat on her back she looks up at me
moves in a manner that defies the physical laws of gravity and aging 
defies the gravity of her situation too bedridden as she is
feet thick and bent awkwardly at the ankle unable to support her body
brittle and already broken mended in ways that jut through the skin 
a bruise yellowing on her forehead like ripening fruit 
she grins and flicks her hips with a lightness of another time 
the years slide into each other defying linear progression
and the old lady is a young woman who doesn’t for a second
doubt her feet dances in variety shows entertaining the troops 
her sister twirling the baton tossing it into the air always catching it 
never faltering leading the parade when the war is finally over
they can’t take that away from me 
she croons on the stage of her own bed 
dances under the sheets with that easy grace 
of gene kelly ginger rogers fred astaire buddy ebsen
her own father too a vaudeville man 
tap tap tapping across the stage 

what are you thinking, i ask later having lifted her into the car 
buckled her into the seat beside me 
we drive along the St. Lawrence 
where she grew up where she once swam all the way across to the USA 
a favourite story when i was little and dreamed
of such feats myself marveled that she could swim there 
hero-worshipped her in that way of young daughters
she stares off and i wonder if she has slipped 
into the places of senility not really expecting an answer to my words 
i was thinking, she says slowly measured words measured thought
how the river never changes although everything around it does
i was thinking about the shoreline 
how it bends how it curves


© Marianne Paul 2011