Old-timers gather in the evenings after dinner,
at a square near the lotus pond, loudspeakers
spilling Classical music in the setting sun.
Couples form to begin twirling and dipping,
women in crisp skirts and heels, men in blazers,
the shy wallflowers with glittering eyes, waiting.
It’s Valentine’s Day, a first date, that awkward
high school dance, even the father-daughter
dance you shared at your first wedding
under a sparkling tent; but you never dance
anymore. Now you watch. Off to the side,
chattering grandmas are making deals, playing
matchmaker, trading photos of their marriageable
offspring like baseball cards, while divorced women
frown, lonely and ignored (this, a traditional city).
And you consider stepping to the sidelines, causing
a stir as the only foreign woman, a divorced one,
at that, but you don’t, and it grows dark. Couples
are leaving hand in hand, soundmen joking over
cigarettes, packing up their equipment, as the
lotus blooms begin to wilt in the fading light.
© Lauren Tivey, 2016.