In Apology for Josiah Walker’s Funeral Dance

by Shannon Amidon

Josiah thought he was beautiful when he danced,
because as a child, his mother’s single gesture of love
was to hold his face in her thick hands and tell him so.
Then she beat him. Now a man, he danced without
being asked, and always alone. He danced
in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot, near hospital windows,
at Christmas fireworks, and at the fair. At festival time,
the Backwoods Ramblers’ thrumming guitar
and mandolin, Po’ Henry playing the wall,
and the Arcadia baby’s sweet voice, sent him
into trembling ecstasy. Once, out of meanness,
someone urged him to dance shoeless in the snow,
saying he looked graceful that way, like his feet
were angel’s wings. Another season, he managed
to climb to the top of the water tower, and sway and turn,
bending his knees ever so slightly, to the soft
humming of crickets and tree frogs singing for rain.

Author’s note: These five poems are from the second section of the manuscript “Wish for an Unknown Color,” which tells the story of a crime of passion that takes place in the piney hills of North Louisiana. Another group is forthcoming in Willow Springs.