Alan Soldofsky: A favorite poem

The Dancing
by Gerald Stern

Gerald Stern’s poem “The Dancing” is one my family includes in our Passover Seder.  It’s a great poem illustrating how grief and joy are intertwined.  And the poem remembers both World War II and Jewish-American history.

Alan Soldofsky
Director of Creative Writing
Professor of English and Comparative Literature
San José State University


The Dancing

In all these rotten shops, in all this broken furniture
and wrinkled ties and baseball trophies and coffee pots
I have never seen a post-war Philco
with the automatic eye
nor heard Ravel’s “Bolero” the way I did
in 1945 in that tiny living room
on Beechwood Boulevard, nor danced as I did
then, my knives all flashing, my hair all streaming,
my mother red with laughter, my father cupping
his left hand under his armpit, doing the dance
of old Ukraine, the sound of his skin half drum,
half fart, the world at last a meadow,
the three of us whirling and singing, the three of us
screaming and falling, as if we were dying,
as if we could never stop—in 1945—
in Pittsburgh, beautiful filthy Pittsburgh, home
of the evil Mellons, 5,000 miles away
from the other dancing—in Poland and Germany—
oh God of mercy, oh wild God.

From Paradise Poems by Gerald Stern

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