Emily Sanford Literature Poetry

This dance is not optional

Emily Sanford


This dance is not optional nor occasional: it is a rifle
at the knees with a rattlesnake beat at high noon
sometimes a precipice leap and sometimes a slow
and sure-footed sway widdershins on sacred air—

it is unending, blood pooled from a pebble in the insole,
a fast turn about the floor, closebodied with sweat
edging down double-breasted union; fearsome,
at times breathless we open our eyes to others in

contra formation and adjust, hands outstretched and
empty as other bodies not yours/not mine/not yours
pass by and through, wonderers murmur, what is that,
that thing the women do, they must be possessed—

shared breath and flying hair—see how they dance
for one another and each never quite separate. We are
unceasing fire on opposing ends of a phantom ship
as waves chant:


Emily Sanford headshotEmily Sanford was born in Nova Scotia and holds an MA in literature and performance from the University of Guelph. She is the winner of the 2016 Eden Mills Writers’ Festival Literary Award for Poetry, and was shortlisted for the Janice Colbert Poetry Award. Her work also appears or is forthcoming at newpoetry.ca and in Minola Review. Emily lives and works in downtown Toronto.