The girls turning double-dutch

bob & weave like boxers pulling

punches, shadowing each other,

sparring across the slack cord

casting parabolas in the air. They

whip quick as an infant’s pulse

and the jumper, before she

enters the winking, nods in time

as if she has a notion to share,

waiting her chance to speak. But she’s

anticipating the upbeat

like a bandleader counting off

the tune they are about to swing into.

The jumper stair-steps into mid-air

as if she’s jumping rope in low-gravity,

training for a lunar mission. Airborne a moment

long enough to fit a second thought in,

she looks caught in the mouth bones of a fish

as she flutter-floats into motion

like a figure in a stack of time-lapse photos

thumbed alive. Once inside,

the bells tied to her shoestrings rouse the gods

who’ve lain in the dust since the Dutch

acquired Manhattan. How she dances

patterns like a dust-heavy bee retracing

its travels in scale before the hive. How

the whole stunning contraption of girl and rope

slaps and scoops like a paddle boat.

Her misted skin arranges the light

with each adjustment and flex. Now heather-

hued, now sheen, light listing on the fulcrum

of a wrist and the bare jutted joints of elbow

and knee, and the faceted surfaces of muscle,

surfaces fracturing and reforming

like a sun-tickled sleeve of running water.

She makes jewelry of herself and garlands

the ground with shadows.


  • Gregory Pardlo, "Double Dutch" from Totem, published by The American Poetry Review. Copyright © 2007 by Gregory Pardlo.  Reprinted by permission of the author.

  • Source: Totem (The American Poetry Review, 2007)

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