Every so often, when I need to remember what it is my hips are for, I treat myself to a Zumba class at my friend’s gym. One of the many things I love about Zumba, or WERQ (a hip-hop version in the same vein), is that there is very little talking from the instructor. Almost all the cueing is done by body language. I like the showing, not telling, aspect of the exercise. I think it allows me to feel the move, along with the music. After a few reps I’m no longer matching myself to the instructor. I am matching myself to myself — a dance-off between 43-year-old Callie and 17-year-old Callie. (Because it isn’t just my hips I am remembering how to use.)
We always start learning a move with our feet. Once we have the steps down, usually the arms come next. The hips, the core, and shoulders are all natural progressions to mastering the move — all of them added on not so much as shoulds, but as possibilities. The smirk and the smile also come naturally. They’re a surprise bonus for giving yourself a chance to let loose and bring that girl on the dance floor to see what it is she can still do. (Turns out, she can do a lot. She’s just been waiting for you to let her loose.)
Of course, this doesn’t happen in the first five minutes of class. For me, anyway. It takes a while for me to warm up, to disentangle myself from the very tightly wound Callie — the one who’s filled with can’ts and what ifs. She’s a stubborn mule, that one. She uses her hips, and they’ll say, “Hey, there! What do you think you’re doing? This ain’t 1993!”
Eventually, the stubborn shell is cracked, and a brighter version of myself emerges. It’s a good reminder to keep dancing, even if it’s awkward, difficult, or sad at first. Freeing yourself isn’t easy. Begin with your feet.
And maybe some really loud music.
This week, write a poem about the directions to engaging in or learning a new hobby or skill. Write a Steps to Reading poem, or a Steps to Star Gazing poem, or a Steps to Bird Watching poem, and so on. Watch what else emerges as you consider the directions.
This post was inspired by my new friend Elizabeth Marrero, who is taking Tweetspeak’s “The Making of a Heroine” class. She wrote this poem during a study of Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson, and Dotty, by Erica Perl. That week’s theme was the role imagination plays in a hero’s development.
Steps to Freedom
On the stairs next to the yellow kitchen
I concentrate on laces that will intertwine
As soon as I learn how to move my hands
I watch my mother
Pinch the laces between her fingers
Loop one over the other
Pull the ends tight in an X
Hold pressure on the tops of my feet
>Make one bunny ear
Wrap them around
Hug them in tight to each other
Pull them into a bow
I carefully watch her do this
With ties that
bind me to her
One day, when I learn to do it myself
I will run down these stairs
Bunny ears flying
Leaving the yellow kitchen
For green green grass
Thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s poetry prompt. Here’s one from Richard Maxson that we enjoyed.
Someday I suppose I will have to write
a poem celebrating Billy Collins,
because he has written so many
about me and everyone I know.
And as if he thought that wasn’t enough,
there are those descriptions of delicious meals
we have eaten or wished we’d eaten:
osso buco, Portobello’s, salmon,
so real on the page, their aroma rising
in a fine ink vapor as the vowels
and consonants begin to simmer.
In the poem I write, about Billy Collins,
you will learn how he helped me quit smoking,
how I learned to watch, while driving at night,
for the eyes of poems on the roadside,
waiting for me to pass before crossing,
then following the tail lights to my home.
I think how good my poem about him will be,
when suddenly he’s there, on the jacket flap,
arms folded, and he stares at me all the way
from Lehman College, by the classroom door
as if he is analyzing my poem,
filling its pages with circles and lines,
comments in red pencil, and a strange map
illuminated with angels dancing on pins to fifth notes.
Browse more poetry prompts
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