In order to avoid the touch in dance
one must move with the delicacy
of a Swiss mechanism
I learnt the steps in childhood
as I learnt to sew
mother fed me stitches with the milk
my sampler – the only deterrence
before you begin.
The sustaining fragment has been
preserved as carefully as an
heirloom from the family works.
Every member guarding their peculiarities at home
embroidering a homily for public consumption,
while our parents laid waste to the loungeroom.
By the lamplight,
by the TV glow,
by the increments of family traditions,
we were trained in renunciation,
just for kicks.
Everyone who disobeyed
was shown what-for with the subtlest of gestures –
a contraceptive pill with the morning juice
the flick of an eyebrow
(alongside ritual humiliation)
the cracking pace of your mother’s dishwashing
and never speaking of this thing again.
All three of us were victims of that atmosphere
without a thought for growing up.
School wasn’t much better,
unless you were one of the haters
or particularly good at softball
Someone might have picked you up at a school formal,
taken you away from all this and
comforted you in his circle
but who wants a good man
when you are full of shame?
So I did my own waste-laying,
for fear of getting too intimate.
In the suburban tapestry,
the low picket fences and over-grown mille-fleurs
covered a multitude of sins,
while virgins were pitted against antlers
in creative play on shady lawns.
I waved off the knight
approaching the white fence in
The Lady and the Unicorn –
who would straddle it without injury?