“The Waltz”

A Poem by John Freeman

May 5, 2020  By John Freeman

Tonight in the park I was reminded of
the first waltz I attended, dancers turning
across the floor in orchestration, lights
low, the beauty of being young, trying not
to be, in our dinner jackets and dresses,
our parents’ cars polished,
parked outside, still ticking in the heat,
unaware this dance was a rehearsal,
to what it wasn’t clear, the movement felt
so free, endless, so much like the point
around which the entire planet orbited,
just as tonight people strolled in twos in Paris
picnicking in groups, laughing with their tongues,
lounging on chairs together—waiting for a chance dip
in light, like the lovers entwined near the empty kiosk
cooled by mists set off every ten minutes on timers,
a hiss of water meant for many, but now it’s just
them in the deep green shade of the trees,
those chaperones of love’s necessary discretion,
eventually it will be all of us turning and turning
out of a final cool night, we hope together, or in
twos, but it may be alone, we need each other
to face that fact, even on a night like this.


From The Park by John Freeman. Published with permission of Copper Canyon Press. 2020. 

John Freeman
John Freeman
John Freeman is the editor of Freeman’s, a literary annual of new writing, and executive editor of Literary Hub. His books include How to Read a Novelist and Dictionary of the Undoing, as well as a trilogy of anthologies about inequality, including Tales of Two Americas, about inequity in the US at large, and Tales of Two Planets, which features storytellers from around the globe on the climate crisis. Maps, his debut collection of poems, was published in 2017, followed by The Park in 2020. His work has been translated into more than twenty languages and has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and The New York Times. He is the former editor of Granta and teaches writing at NYU.

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