Thursday Poem

Dancers at Banstead

I went inside the place to find
The madmen dancing inside the hall,
The witless women whirling by
Like phantoms, trailing scarfs and smiles;
A little band, with lips of tin,
Kept puffing out the ancient cry:
To dance! To dance! To happiness! —
And round they went, without a pause.

At midnight when I drove away,
And back to dreams the madfolk went
Tucked into sleep with lullaby,
I flung my questions to the air.
But nothing cared to answer me:
The dark hills humped down everywhere
With matted arms; and over all,
Full-blown and white, the neutral moon
Was dancing to another time.

Ahead I saw the city lights
And thought, if earth can only wait
Another thousand thousand nights,
Surely this grief will balance out
In some unguessed nativity.
Meanwhile, indeed, the nights are long,
And there is little we can do,
Except to let the dancers dance;
Except to know the moon is wrong.

by Mary Oliver
Northern Illinois University Press, 1967