I think about this Billy Collins poem sometimes, about slow dancing as the world ends. And sometimes it feels like that, even when I’m alone and the world isn’t ending. He writes about the floor caving in as the couple glides gracefully across it, ignoring their untimely ending, and I picture them in a building with big windows that show the sea right outside. And everything is collapsing; falling and smashing and breaking, the whole world, but they just keep dancing. He says he can hear the symphony serenading their conclusion, the sound of soft, sweet music twisting with the crashes and burning. And I can see the flames go up, higher and higher, ashes falling on their eyelashes much like snowflakes but much unlike them, too. They blink them away. They keep dancing. And then everything closes in, and there isn’t a floor, and they’re swirling with debris but not saying anything, just looking at each other, and as they sink into the sea with the rest of the world he looks at her desperate eyes and sees all the things they would’ve done, because they would have done it right, and he keeps his eyes open as they sink deeper and deeper, trying to remember all of it, trying to remember the exact pattern of her freckles, and the music has stopped but he can still hear the notes swell, and the sweetest song echoes in his heart, and in his final seconds there’s nothing but light; pure, unruined light, and all of it gets quiet, and at last he closes his eyes with calm comfort, discovering her hand somehow still in his.
Slow Dancing as the World Ends
May 20, 2013