The poetic city: A suite for Miss Helen, “Dancing with Miss Helen: In Purgatory 9/2/12”

Miss Helen bringing the joy of dance to all around her. (Photo by Richard Eager)

Dancing with Miss Helen: In Purgatory   9/2/12


Fearing the magic was gone, preparing for the worst, 

I gird, wince, and enter the purgatory of

Miss Helen’s place in time.


I pick my way between the wheelchairs

to Helen’s spot before the television.

As images flicker across the big screen

making no sense to those who watch,

I stoop to announce my presence

and ask Miss Helen to dance once again.


Looking uncertain, but always polite,

she gives me permission to be wheeled

from the room into the light

Then she bows her head so I can place

the magic buds in her ears giving me hope

that our last chance to dance is still in the offing.


At first, she seems indifferent


The music brings movement but no emphasis.

Her groove is limp; her attention wanders.

Trying to extract meaning from the mundane

she looks around the room and makes comments

about what she can no longer understand.

Then she gives up the struggle and signals 

her surrender with a shrug

Falling back into resignation she takes with her

my hope that we can stave off the inevitable

just one more time.


Then mysteriously the music takes hold 

and she bites into the beat. 


With shoulder shimmies and head struts

she crosses the boundary from self to other

and we break new ground dancing once again.

Knowing that each time may be the last

makes each time a blessing

And I wonder how I became so lucky

to have become an instrument of Miss Helen’s karma.

© Reece Burka 2/1/2019


You must login to post a comment. Need a ViaNolaVie account? Click here to signup.