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By Gregory Pardlo

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)

Poet Bio

Gregory Pardlo
Gregory Pardlo was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Willingboro, New Jersey. He is the author of Digest (2014), winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. The Pulitzer judges cited Pardlo’s “clear-voiced poems that bring readers the news from 21st Century America, rich with thought, ideas and histories public and private.” Pardlo’s poems, reviews, and translations have been widely published and are noted for “language simultaneously urban and highbrow … snapshots of a life that is so specific it becomes universal.” He is an associate editor for the literary journal Callaloo and teaches creative writing at Columbia University. He lives in Brooklyn. See More By This Poet

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