Pat Valdata


Choreography for Beginners

No one will tell you this: undressing
a man is no cakewalk. The movement
of teeth unzipping will remind you
that you have a dental appointment.
Everyone, at first, experiences that
fumbling pas de deux of hook and eye
You’ll snag your bra strap on the tiny
plastic buttons of his sleeves.

Every garment’s rise and fall depends
on timing: jeans will puddle at his heels
if he doesn’t first jeté his shoes.
Try not to giggle the exact moment
you see the hairy shins above his sprung-
elastic socks, the sagging waistband
of his sadly unbleached boxers,
his piéce de résistance: rouge et relevé.

Where is that manual of exercises,
the footprints to follow on the floor?
Movies cut to fireworks and fountains,
leaving out this slippery reality.
You try to be Ginger to his Fred,
but you’re always one step behind.
Finally centered on the mark, you rock
your pelvises like Flipper on pointe.

Before you’ve completed one pass
around the parterre, his quickstep is
over. You lie to him politely while you
struggle to lie together comfortably,
to work out a more graceful line,
the correct position of the arms.
You have a geometry exam tomorrow.
You’re dying for a Diet Coke.

Pat Valdata is a poet and novelist. Her poetry book about women aviation pioneers, Where No Man Can Touch, won the 2015 Donald Justice Poetry Prize. Her other poetry titles are Inherent Vice and Looking for Bivalve. Her poetry has been published in Light and in EcotoneFledgling RagItalian AmericanaLittle Patuxent Review, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. She has a new novel, Eve’s Daughters, out from Moonshine Cove Publishing. Her other novels are Crosswind and The Other Sister.