Linda Nemec Foster’s poem, “Dancing with My Sister,” is featured on the Cuyahoga Public Library’s (Cleveland, Ohio) website for National Poetry Month, 2016.

Dancing with My Sister

for Deborah

We’re not talking those crazy Polish weddings
in Cleveland, where we both learned how to dance,
clutching each other’s sweaty hands, galloping
to the Beer Barrel Polka, and trying not to bump
into Uncle Johnnie and his whirling Chicago Hop.

This is now, tonight, in a smoky bar in Detroit
where two women dancing together can scandalize
any pimp within range. Where the hotshot
bartender can mix anything and has the wide eyes
to prove it: bloody mary, wallbanger, a zombie
with a spike of lime that will raise the dead.

Above the crowded dance floor, in the maze
of catwalks, the geek of a lighting man
(who reminds us of every boy in high school
who fast-danced with his hands behind his back)
shines the spotlight right on us. And we glow.

Girl, do we glow. Not for the memory of those
distant high school boys whose faces we can’t
remember. Not for the fluid desire ebbing
around us on the floor and beyond where silent
men sit in the dark. We glow for the raw truth
of Aretha’s voice spelling out RESPECT;
for the way our hair curls down past our shoulders;
for our legs that can outdance any young thing;
for the miracle that we survived our childhoods—
mother’s obsessive cleaning, father’s factory shifts,
the Erwin Street mob of pre-juvenile delinquents.
We glow because we came from the same burnt-out dream
of second-generation immigrants and learned to smile
at the closed mouth of loss and dance, dance, dance.

“Dancing with My Sister” by Linda Nemec Foster from Amber Necklace From Gdansk. Louisiana State University Press, 2001. Used by permission of the author.

Linda Nemec Foster was born in Cleveland and grew up in the cityʼs Slavic Village neighborhood which was illuminated by the orange sky of the factories and steel mills. She is the author of nine poetry collections including Listen to the Landscape (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006) and Amber Necklace From Gdansk (Louisiana State University Press, 2001). Her work has appeared in more than 300 journals – Georgia Review, North American Review, and New American Writing, been translated in Europe, rendered into songs and concert music, and produced for the stage. She has been honored with Pushcart Prize nominations and awards from the Academy of American Poets and the National Writer’s Voice. Foster is the founder of the Contemporary Writers Series at Aquinas College.

Originally Published by Cuyahoga Library, click here to view article.