Do You Feel Her Dancing?


    The house my mother grew up in in Florence, Colorado was inhabited by a trillion dolls. Ditsy florals on the walls, relic wingback armchairs, the kitchen still in its original bones and vinyl checkerboard flooring, and the most modern room was encased in an aggressively red shag carpet. It smelled like biting perfume, and curtains kept the lighting hazy.

    My family would drive up every once in a while. When I think about those visits to my grandparents house, I think of trying not to fall into the storm drain while stepping out of the car. The Reese’s cups in the freezer, my aunt’s setup in the basement. Feeling the sun stab the back of my neck while pulling weeds from the brick patio, dressing in Grandma’s theater costumes, trying to figure out poker on the brick in the living room that vaguely operated as a computer. I loved it.

    My grandparents were assumed to be stoic people, but they both had incredible wit. At family gatherings, Grandpa reigned head of the table in his wheelchair while Grandma sat poised in the first seat to his left. All of my aunts, uncles, and cousins sat around like feasting on a warm fire, hungry for the gospel that might seep through their dentures.


    It was Autumn when my mother’s phone rang with a heavy call. Her father, my grandpa, was dying. We piled into the car and drove up a turning landscape.


    I should mention that Grandpa Fox was ancient. He survived five kinds of cancer, fought in World War II, and had fourteen children (three died at birth). But only on our final visit was it apparent that he was withering away.

   He was set up in a bed I’ve slept in a tens of times. The same aunts, uncles, and cousins were gathered around, blue lips. Light was dim and still hazy, the perfume was noted with solem now.

    I found it painfully difficult to be around him. The idea of saying anything to him was unbearable - I feared falling apart and having a dozen adults rush to my rescue, leaving him to walk the stairs alone. It seemed that everyone could swallow this while I was the only one with it caught in the back of my throat.
    Why was the sadness moving through my body so differently than it was in theirs? Why was it impossible to keep myself together, while they were able to show up as the company he needed? Quietly, I tucked into a corner next to a similarly wordless doll. The clock began churning, counting down the undisclosed amount of time I had to decide if I’d say anything at all.

    I decided to consult my mom.
    “Can I give him a kiss on the cheek?” I said, blood rushing to mine with embarrassment of this proposition.
    A kiss on the cheek. Like the ones my dad would plant on me to heal a knee scrape, or ensure sweet dreams after reading “Green Eggs and Ham” again. My grand idea of closure with a man I adored.

    I did it. Mom and I entered the room to notice him sitting up for the first time in a few days.

    “Jane wants to give you a kiss on the cheek,” she declared with our hands tied together.


    I often feel as if my tenderness is my greatest weakness. An absolute curse. When the movie “Up” released, I had to leave the theater in the first 5 minutes and recollect after that god-awful love scene. I tear up on hikes because the gratitude of living on a planet where there are flowers and trees mountains in my chest. But, how lucky am I to feel?


    It’s 2013 and the world has spun into absolute madness. Tumblr has taken over, and grunge has taken over tumblr: grid patterns galore, striped turtlenecks, violently deep side-parts. Teenagers everywhere are refusing to stop saying the word “swag”, and the soundtrack? Pure Heroine.
    A waxed series of intrinsic moments experienced while moving through life. The artist was an impossibly young New Zealand native who called herself “Lorde”. She sang intimate melodies about things that were otherwise hidden in shadows of nuance.

    I remember this clearly: it's after 3:30pm and the bus is taking me home from a long day of sixth/seventh/eighth grade. The brown leather seat is starting to give up - older me wonders how driving nearly fifty tweens in a vehicle with no seatbelts is considered safe. I've got one earbud, the other is with a girl next to me, and the cord wishbones between us. We’re listening to “A World Alone”, the tenth track. My favorite song off the album would cycle, and this was the week’s hit.

    “I feel grown up with you in your car,” Lorde, “A World Alone” (0:25-0:29).

    This lyric would hit me better a couple years later, when I’d finally abandon the yellow school bus. “400 Lux”, “Swinging Party”, and the rest - I was infatuated with how good it was. Her sentimental lyrics juxtaposed an era plagued by numbness.

    They enthroned simple winks of life:

    “You drape your wrists over the steering wheel
    Pulses can drive from here…” -- Lorde, “400 Lux” (1:01-1:05)

    Though the lines are singularly great in their specificity, the collective is indescribably grand. The voice echoed beneath steps that have carried me for years.


    In fifth grade science class, my teacher explained growth. His example was a fingernail: we didn't notice ours growing, until suddenly they were longer. There’s an illusion that the growth is decrete, when really it’s the accumulation of many hours, many days. On my birthday that year, I cried while realizing I was in the midst of growing too. I hadn't noticed the time going by. Suddenly, the pages in my right hand grew thin, and a daunting new chapter would begin.

    “It feels so scary, getting old” -- Lorde, “Ribs” (2:25-2:32).


    One night in March of 2017, my Mother came into my room late.     “Lorde put out a new song, can we listen?” She said, lifting her voice at the end as if she'd asked a question.

    It had been nearly four years since the release of Pure Heroine when it was announced that something new was on its way. At this moment, I had no idea Melodrama would be a slow burning epiphany . If it was anywhere near the former - the bus would need to install seat belts.
    She squeezed beside me. Moonlight summoned through the window, tucking us into the shift. I felt so close to her. It was warm, and I could feel her heartbeat. Her head was moving to the sounds, her tongue pressed against the roof of her mouth leaving her lips slightly open, the way they do when you're really enjoying something. I layed, eyes heavy looking at her. Bathing under the spotlight of the moon, we grew 3 minutes and 55 seconds older.


    I wrote this in my first semester of college to fulfill a prompt about music. An Artist we tucked into our ears to feel some sort of warm skin, a simulation of soft groundedness. I chose Lorde, a woman I’ve never met but always felt eco-located a feeling that everything was okay.
    Closer than New Zealand was you, holding me to your chest, using your strong hands in their gentlest way, transferring the knowing that everything was okay.

    I wrote about your childhood home, in that garden of a town. I describe other figures briefly, but know that what you are to me is the entire picture of a red shag carpet, warm fire, youth, a wishbone that always breaks with the big piece in my hand.
    You are a piece of the divine that fell into this chaotic world. The title, “Can You Feel Her Dancing?” came from a Rupi Kaur poem I read years ago:

    “upon my birth
    my mother said
    there is god in you
    do you feel her dancing”
    You said this to me when you put a hot glue gun in my hand at the age of 3, when you let me draw murals on giant sheets of drywall with a carpenter's pencil at houses you’d renovate, When you'd sing to me in a soft voice, then later belt to the sound of your lilac pink guitar.

    I feel her dancing, and I can see it when I look into your soft hazel eyes that have always resembled oceanic moss.

September 2021