Women Dancing with Babies on their Hips

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Women Dancing with Babies on their Hips

by Cathy Smith Bowers
Southern Cultures, Vol. 16, No. 3: Roots Music

". . .coupling on the dance floor, two women, alone, dancing with babies on their hips, wearing in and through, stitching up the random piece-goods of the night."

We had travelled to that old coast,
six hours to New Bern, the long ferry
from Cedar Island to Ocracoke and then
to Roanoke where Manteo, for love
of the glittering English, killed Wanchese,
and so began, even from within,
that long, slow clearing.

And that night, tourists sick
of the bloody ending of our beginning,
we went for beer and music
on the deck of the Jolly Roger
where in the starry distance
lighthouses stayed the blown
shoals of islands like paperweights.

It was there we saw them, their separate
bodies swaying among the couples
coupling on the dance floor, two women,
alone, dancing with babies on their hips,
weaving in and through, stitching up
the random piece-goods of the night.

They were banners. Their hair
starfish lit. Their faces the blossomy
bright shock of sand dollars
when you find them whole.

How useless our wondering the whereabouts
of their men, imagining them away,
some war they did not belong in,
or too late back from the shrimping boat,
and tired,to join them here. These women,
their strong lovely hips dipping
and cresting, their babies’ heads
flung back in a whirl of toothless
laughter, loving the lone ride,
their wild, dumb entry into the world.

Ed. note: This poem was originally published in Traveling in Time of Danger (Iris Press) and is reprinted here courtesy of the author.

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