Rehearsal for the Day of Joy

Michael Symmons Roberts

The dancers are stretching, loosening
in their dressing rooms, half-dressed

in a mess of costume rails, water glasses
topped with a dusting of rouge.

Although it’s still too soon to dance,
look at the rush of guttered rain through grids

to join the surge towards an open sea.
See how the dry leaves catch in corners,

petals of a burnt manifesto
caught in a breeze between tenements.

And after curfew watch our flags
lift in unison like unbowed heads to mock us,

because the dance, though fugitive, is here,
and will not be held back.

Already it breaks on the roofs of our mouths
and we can barely contain the taste.

It is there in the off-key buskers, dog-howls,
click of the heels of those uniformed men

who think they hold this city captive still,
and soon must think again.