While Teaching Line Dancing at a Senior Center… by Pauli Dutton

While Teaching Line Dancing at a Senior Center,
Someone Accuses Me of Always Being Happy

But who isn’t happy dancing?
When I read a book where the hero gives his life away
out of love, I cry for three days.
At the movies when the girl is attacked then tossed
from the high window, I run to the restroom.
I’ve been unhappy and terrified.
I’ve tried to escape the mind— scenes of mother’s
schizophrenia and its ricocheting effects
through a kaleidoscope of bustle.
Now, I teach myself to dance like a flower
to savor the fragrance of rosemary in the stew,
the chords of my husband’s proof-of-life snore,
and the satisfaction of each communal
kick and clap to an electric slide.
This keeps me bursting like a sky of fireworks,
which you mistake for joy.


Pauli Dutton has been published in Writing In A Woman’s Voice, Verse Virtual, The Pangolin Review, Better Than Starbucks, Altadena Poetry Review, and elsewhere. She was a librarian for 40 years, where she founded, coordinated, and led a public reading series from 2003 – 2014. She has served on the Selection Committees for The Altadena Literary Review in 2020 and The Altadena Poetry Review from 2015 – 2019. She also co-edited the 2017 and 2018 editions. Pauli holds an MLIS from the University of Southern California.