This chapbook was written during NaPoWriMo in April 2011. It’s a series of poems that speak of learning how to dance, from the beginning steps of the waltz to what it’s like when a dancer begins to feel the steps rather than just mechanically arrange the arms and legs. The poems also describe dancing with one’s partner: it’s a bit like falling in love, thus the title, “a love story.” I wrote them in in the spring of 2011 after having spent three years (now four years) taking ballroom dance lessons.
These poems wouldn’t have been possible without the help and support of two extraordinary individuals. First, my husband Terry, without whom I could not dance at all. These poems are basically one long love letter to him. He also makes a perfect cameo in the cover photo. The other is our dance teacher, Lynn Kettenburg, of Victory Dance Center in Emmaus, PA. I can honestly say without reservation that she is the best teacher I’ve ever had. That is a gift I will always keep close to my heart with deepest gratitude.
A selection of poems from this chapbook is forthcoming in the next issue of Diode. Stay tuned for links. Some sample poems at the bottom of this post, just scroll down.
Reviews (thank you ladies!):
We have learned how to dance or we remember our parents floating above their own dance floor in Christine Klocek-Lim’s chapbook Ballroom—a love story. For the speaker and her man in each neatly-narrated poem, dance helps them “look at each other,” and helps all lovers, even ones who learn to dance midway in life, know that with dance “eyes touch.” And as dance skills improve, beckon for repetition and risk through the progression of Klocek-Lim’s skillfully touching images that take us to vertigo, ocean, and back to the dance floor, her speaker plunges into the act of life and love through dance.
The rumba seen in “Rumba—spot turns,” is so very sexy yet shares a rawness of “muscle through hard depths to bone,” as the speaker shares the intricacy of love’s moves, wondering just how deep body and emotion can go. The notion of the tango and its couple’s mirror-like movements transcend in “Tango – torneo cinco” because not only do we become aware of “[t]he difficulty of toes and muscle aligning,” but we also accept the labor of the difficulty, much like the labor of true love when the speaker admits that “[i]t’s easier to walk alone / but not as beautiful….”
My favorite ballroom dance, the cha cha, takes on the wonderfully surreal (as do many of the poems in this collection) in “Cha Cha—paseo,” as the dancers/lovers become relentless, practicing “until the river is littered with petals” / and the trees have given up on [them]” as they master the art of spinning. In fact, this penultimate poem anticipates the final and title poem that explains and concludes in metaphor the lasting love story that we’ve experienced all along in each poem: “he lifts me, twists me into knots. / I am a ribbon, caught on his bough. / The last red leaf.”
~ Theresa Senato Edwards, author of Voices Through Skin (Sibling Rivalry Press 2011) and Painting Czeslawa Kwoka ~ Honoring Children of the Holocaust with Painter Lori Schreiner (unbound CONTENT 2012)
“I confess: At first I thought, “A Love Story? Really?” But it is, not only of the rediscovery of a long-married couple, but of self and world, and perhaps most importantly, of the self that’s burdened with judgment and the self that simply dances. Klocek-Lim’s ballroom dancing poems take you with them on a year-long journey from the first stiff steps to the joy of moving in tandem with animal grace—a lovely turn.”
With a sure hand on the small of your back, Christine Klocek-Lim guides the reader through this collection of beautiful, and beautifully choreographed poems. These lush, spell-binding poems explore love, intimacy, desire and how close flying is to falling. The poems in Ballroom – a love story pull you into their powerful rhythms and luminous language. These exquisite poems are “brilliant as sapphires,” with a “music as sweet as honey.”
Two bodies meet, the ballroom is all glitter, stars and sparkle, two bodies turn into wind, rising and falling to the ceiling then the floor, hands are touching arms and backs, heels are clicking, and we are spinning in dance after dance. “Because vertigo feels / like freedom,” and Christine Klocek-Lim’s Ballroom feels just like that. Dances turn into waves and shells, watching as the tide rolls in. “I have no idea how I got here,” and neither do we. There is a dizzy and tender connection between man and woman, and yet a fear of awkwardness, an unknowing of how to move the feet or of where the dance will go. Between glitter and stars, there is an intimate tango of closeness and indifference. “and I’m in love again, or falling / in love. My heart doesn’t know it should be careful,” the fantasy world of the Cha Cha turns the poet, allowing her to forget place and age, she goes on to write: “yet I’m so dizzy I can’t remember the beginning / of the party.” This book made me want to go to the dance floor, to spin in her world, to be “A dropped penny, desperate for him / to scoop me back up.” Christine stuns and shines in this whirlwind of pure poetic word-dance.
~ Christine Yurick, editor of Think Journal
Viennese Waltz — natural turn
It’s like flying
Each step a revolution.
The planet tilted
Sunlight far off.
Clouds strangely graceful
even as the storm
She says, lean back further.
Enough to contain
The ballroom is wide
as a plain. I’m a sapling
and he is the wind.
Sometimes I touch the floor,
toes starved for solid ground.
Sometimes I leap.
Every other step a lock
as though leaves
can be caged.
He is vertigo.
The darkened tornado
peeling my meadow.
The sky falters but I hang on,
fingers lodged in his bones.
I am a white birch.
I am a falling
I am a spinning
Tango — torneo cinco
My mother finds me in the kitchen
with ice and bandages, foot propped
like a broken shoe.
My bruise looks like Argentina,
a forest of color.
We’re learning the tango, I say,
thinking of the trees outside
the dance studio. Oaks along the river.
My mother is thinking, how terrible
the leaves die each winter.
Sometimes love necessitates disaster.
She didn’t see his face when we came together.
How I dared him to fall as I stepped around him.
How he dared me to lead, fingers on my body
tight as a locked door. I took five steps,
unaware of the vertigo. The difficulty of toes
and muscle aligning. It’s easier to walk alone
but not as beautiful, I thought, then lost
my way. The forest is a trickster.
Doesn’t it hurt? she wonders, fingering my instep.
I bandage the pain and pull away.
I’m remembering the trees, how the leaves
turned scarlet at just the right moment.
His palm, perilously sweet
against my wound.
© 2012 Christine Klocek-Lim