On polka night the boys watch your feet or their feet
while you dance.
Their heads hang low over beer stomachs and old beards
and they say your name soft with every sentence
like a disc jockey dedicating his favorite song.
They are always on unemployment.
They want to wine and dine you on flea markets
and Sunday afternoon drives
hoping that love and fate will make you blind
to material goods
like other men and apartments on the nice side of town.
When you polka they hold you like tomorrow is a speeding train
and you are dancing a half-mile down track.
They hold you like they know this train is in someone else's dream
and they are going to wake up when the polka ends.
Only, everyone knows that polkas never end,
and the old train rumbles behind their apartment that they call a flat,
like some appropriate slur about the place with claw-footed bathtubs
and old wallpaper.
They fall in love with you for the color of your hair
and follow you through the dance hall
like two polkas mean a relationship,
introducing you to the band members means a lifetime
And when you dance they ask you out, "C'mon, be kind," they say,
while they try to guide you through the frantic crowd.
But they are helpless against 87 measures a minute
and crashing couples
and the times you step on their feet.
And you wonder when love was ever kind,
knowing that if they'd pay attention to the meter and the steps
and the words you say
they'd know that love takes more than love
and in every dance
timing is everything.
NANCY RYBCZYNSKI lives in Buffalo.