poetry quarterly

10th anniversary

LANGSTON HUGHES TRIBUTE ISSUE

Gregory Pardlo

 

DOUBLE DUTCH

The girls turning double-dutch
bob & weave like boxers pulling
punches, shadowing each other,
sparring across the slack cord
casting parabolas in the air. They
whip quick as an infant's pulse
and the jumper, before she
enters the winking, nods in time
as if she has a notion to share,
waiting her chance to speak. But she's
anticipating the upbeat
like a bandleader counting off
the tune they are about to swing into.
The juper stair-steps into mid-air
as if she's jumping rope in low-gravity,
training for a lunar mission. Airborne a moment
long enough to fit a second thought in,
she looks caught in the mouth bones of a fish
as she flutter-floats into motion
like a figure in a stack of time-lapse photos
thumbed alive. Once inside,
the bells tied to her shoestrings rouse the gods
who've lain in the dust since the Dutch
acquired Manhattan. How she dances
patterns like a dust-heavy bee retracing
its travels in scale before the hive. How
the whole stunning contraption of girl and rope
slaps and scoops like a paddle boat.
Her misted skin arranges the light
with each adjustment and flex. Now heather-
hued, now sheen, light listing on the fulcrum
of a wrist and the bare jutted points of elbow
and knee, and the faceted surfaces of muscle,
surfaces fracturing and reforming
like a sun-tickled sleeve of running water.
She makes jewelry of herself and garlands
the ground with shadows.

 


Gregory Pardlo’s first book, Totem, won the American Poetry Review/ Honickman Prize in 2007. His poems, reviews and translations have appeared in American Poetry Review, Best American Poetry, Gulf Coast, Harvard Review, Ploughshares, and on National Public Radio. He was a finalist for the Essence Magazine Literary Award in Poetry, and the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship and a translation grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. He has received fellowships from the New York Times, the MacDowell Colony, the Lotos Club Foundation and Cave Canem. Pardlo is an associate editor of poetry for Callaloo, and an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at George Washington University. He divides his time between Brooklyn and Washington, DC. His website: http://www.pardlo.com.

 

Published in Volume 12, Number 1, Winter 2011.

 

To read more by this author:
Gregory Pardlo