Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

Rita Dove

American Smooth

American Smooth

We dansten – het moet een
foxtrot of wals zijn geweest,
iets romantisch dat toch
beheersing vereiste,
rijzen en dalen, precies
uitgevoerde bewegingen
op het lied zonder te
stoppen, twee borstkassen zwoegend
boven een zevenmijls-
pas – de volmaakte kwelling
waar je doorheen leert glimlachen,
want extatische mimiek
is het sine qua non
van American Smooth.
En omdat ik werd afgeleid
door mijn pogingen om
mijn patronen te volgen
(overhellen naar links, het hoofd net
voldoende gedraaid om te turen
langs je oor en steeds blijven
glimlachen, glimlachen),
zag ik niet
hoe stil je was geworden tot
het voorbij was
(twee maten lang?
vier?) – het vliegen
die snelle en serene
verhevenheid,
voordat de aarde
weer wist wie we waren
en ons neerhaalde.

American Smooth

We were dancing – it must have

been a foxtrot or a waltz,

something romantic but

requiring restraint,

rise and fall, precise

execution as we moved

into the song without

stopping, two chests heaving

above a seven-league

stride – such perfect agony

one learns to smile through,

ecstatic mimicry

being the sine qua non

of American Smooth.

And because I was distracted

by the effort of

keeping my frame

(the leftward lean, head turned

just enough to gaze out

past your ear and always

smiling, smiling),

I didn’t notice

how still you’d become until

we had done it

(for two measures?

four?)—achieved flight,

that swift and serene

magnificence,

before the earth

remembered who we were

and brought us down.

Close

American Smooth

We were dancing – it must have

been a foxtrot or a waltz,

something romantic but

requiring restraint,

rise and fall, precise

execution as we moved

into the song without

stopping, two chests heaving

above a seven-league

stride – such perfect agony

one learns to smile through,

ecstatic mimicry

being the sine qua non

of American Smooth.

And because I was distracted

by the effort of

keeping my frame

(the leftward lean, head turned

just enough to gaze out

past your ear and always

smiling, smiling),

I didn’t notice

how still you’d become until

we had done it

(for two measures?

four?)—achieved flight,

that swift and serene

magnificence,

before the earth

remembered who we were

and brought us down.

American Smooth

Sponsors
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Ludo Pieters Gastschrijver Fonds
Hendrik Muller fonds
Lira fonds
J.E. Jurriaanse
Literature Translation Institute of Korea
Partners
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère