Let Your Ribs Dance: Reflecting on “Their Dance” by William Virgil Davis

A few summers ago, I remember thinking a great deal about the seasons. The weather that year in Ohio had been particularly fickle, with cold temperatures well into late April and cool summer months. However, I have found that no matter what the weather has been like in the past, there is something wonderfully freeing about the warmer months that are yet to come this year. In spring and summer, I feel like I can breathe again. A poem called “Their Dance” by William Virgil Davis, which appears in Artful Dodge 26/27, speaks to this idea of renewal.

In the poem, Davis describes people who are literally stripped down to the bone, their “skin peeling off like old wallpaper.” The “old wallpaper” line reminds me of rebirth, stepping out of something cold and crackling and uncomfortable into a new beginning. Davis goes further with the image, describing how the bones “lift themselves to dance.” The image of ribs dancing reminds me to celebrate life, that in spring and summer, when the cold finally ends, I’ll feel like my chest can fully expand. Even nature seems to dance more often in the warmer months: flowers blowing in the breeze, trees gaining their leaves, water sparkling in the sun. People seem to dance more often too, diving into the water, spinning to live music on city street sidewalks. The final two lines of the poem capture the restless movement of spring well: “they never want to lie down again.” Summer nights have stripped me down to that primal feeling. Sometimes, standing in an empty street, alone against the darkness, I suddenly become hyper-aware of my own breathing. My breath and my pounding heart become my sole focus. It is an invigorating, empowering feeling.

The next time you are overwhelmed, I would encourage you to focus on the “dance” that Davis is describing in this poem—focus on the rise and fall of your ribs as you breathe. Hopefully, you’ll find that you “never want to lie down again.”


— Megan Murphy, Assistant Editor

About artfuldodgewooster

Ohio based literary magazine, now over twenty years old, still in print, and gradually spreading across the digital world. Official Website: artfuldodge.sites.wooster.edu
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