Anne Babson is the author of two full-length collections of poetry,The White Trash Pantheon and Polite Occasions. Her libretto for the opera Lotus Lives has been performed in New York, Boston, and Montreal. Her first play, Reenactment, has recently been accepted for publication. Her work has been anthologized in both the United States and in England, and she has had poems published in literary journals on five continents. She writes in New Orleans and teaches at Southeastern Louisiana University.
THE AMERICAN JITTERBUG
The step goes like this in six-eight rhythm: right-toe-
Heel, left-toe-heel, both toes, right heel, and twirl and twirl.
This is the American Jitterbug. To feel
The swing of it, bend your knees slightly, like a girl
Curtsying, but don’t curtsy all the way. There is
No royalty in this dance straight out of Harlem,
Only slick hipsters and the saxophone soul-kissed.
The boys throw girls in the air, gather their harems
By flinging women skyward, catching them ably,
Then tossing them between their thighs American-
Style. The American Jitterbug – Oh, baby,
Let your backbone slip. Improvise. Don’t make a plan
Or box-step your way around Roseland’s big wood floor
Like some European stuck in neutral. Vroom-vroom
It like the motors we invented. Just score
Like a Yankee passing third in the Bronx. Ballroom
Is too pinched for this continent, too tea-and-punch.
Tango sacrifices all for love, not moolah,
So it is not our dance. Merengue shakes too much,
But we are fearless optimists. The lambada
Is bull. This is the American Jitterbug.
We dance like there were no steps, and yet we keep time.
Cut the waltz schmaltz. Cut the etiquette. Cut a rug.
Tell the truth by spinning. Your strut croons the end rhyme.