Keith Leonard

Balter

There is a word in middle English
to describe the way you dance—
with delight but without a hint
of art or skill. Al Green licks the walls
of our tiny apartment, and you balter
across the living room nursing the plants.
You balter to the sink
and sing to a toothbrush
with a mouth full of foam.
If we’re doing this right,
the ruling god of embarrassment
has no place in our home.
He can orbit the building.
He can scratch the brick
with nails as sharp as checkmarks,
but we do not need to invite him in.
I have never understood elegance.
Below the song dampening dirt,
the dead all practice a statued grace.
But here you can clap a half-step
behind the beat. You can announce
an extra note with the body abundant.
Here, you can place your hands
on my shoulders. I can lift my hands
to your waist.

Keith Leonard is the author of the poetry collection Ramshackle Ode (Mainer/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016). His poems are forthcoming in New England Review, Ploughshares, and The Believer. Keith has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers' Conferences, the Sustainable Arts Foundation, and Indiana University, where he earned an MFA. He lives in Columbus, Ohio.
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