Still Waltzing with You

by Allen M. Weber
Desert Moon Review
Second Place, July 2017
Judged by Tim Mayo

They freed you from the ICU,
and past the sterile seams
of whispering doors lay morning.
Small hours before a rosehip dawn,
you were scared, and I was too.
I’d stay by you the whole night through.

The nurses bustled through
to check your vital signs. You
sang the words you once danced to.
Red neon glowed between the seams
of window blinds. “Looks like dawn,”
I said, “but it’s three in the morning.”

It’s three o’clock in the morning
we’ve danced the whole night thru
and daylight soon will be dawning
just one more waltz with you
that melody so entrancing seems
to be made for us two—

you softly crooned the chorus to
Three O’clock in the Morning.
How right those lyrics seemed:
from bed to loo we’d waltzed on through—
rolling the IV stand with you—
a kind of grace before the dawn.

But as the sky just shy of dawn,
your freckled skin had darkened too
when cloud-shaped bruises covered you.
Your lilt did not allow for mourning—
we’ve danced the whole night thru—
it made my dread unseemly.

So while a candle seams
its winding sheet before the dawn,
the giving sun still filters through
the parting clouds, and bleeds into
the earth below. When mourning
doves coo, they remind of how you

would always say, They seem to call the rain.
And this dawned, a glimmer from my mourning:
Through this humming world, still I hear you sing.

After reading this poem I went to YouTube and listened to many different versions of the song, “Three O’clock in the Morning.” Listening to those renditions deepened my sense of how this poet was able to take this old standard and use it as a spring board to fashion a sestina which entwines the end words of the refrain of that song/waltz into a subtle elegy. Part of the success of any sestina has to be to keep it simple and keep the snse of flow natural as you write against the complex order of the end words, The poet plays on these structural end words in more ways than one and succeeds by not being trapped by them. --Tim Mayo