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Katherine Gallagher, from Carnival Edge: New and Selected Poems

The Dance

All around, islands of girls waiting
to be asked — cherry pinks, fern-greens, lilacs,

offsetting lines of dark-suits,
half-shy boys: one by one, couples swirling

away, following each other into the sea
of that crowded floor — everything suspended

in the thinning air, the school dancing on its toes,
Exhibition Swing pumped out by an imitation

Victor Sylvester Band, unsmiling, but practised
as a row of puppets,

a whirl of sedate moves under spotlights,
and me, ready to step

out of that loop...