No. 8
Jessica Relyea
Alma Hill Dancing c. 1931
Stephanie Mesler

The dancers on Alma Hill appear at dusk.
An amber light washes over all that was green by day
and envelops that which has not yet slinked to ground.
Children begin to droop.
Grown men start to play,
tin whistles and blues harps taken from pockets.
Women gather in kitchens to clear not just
the remains of meals cooked, served and consumed.
There is light here as dark falls,
another day survived,
Allegheny heat receding into rocks at creek’s edge. 
The dancing starts
when the youngest of  babes is tucked in.
It is always Granny Epsom to take the floor first,
no one’s granny at all,
she is everyone’s grand, 
wrinkled and white,
all but her mouth,
that being strawberry wine red. 
Laughter penetrates.
All but the players are on their feet. 
Even the dead come out to twirl a noodle.

The dancers on Alma Hill know love.
Devoted to earth,
tied to one another,
no one ever leaves Alma. 
Just ask Old Ray Mesler.
He tried to leave once,
made it as far as Paris, France,
but Alma grabbed him by the balls,
dragged him home,
and reminded him
that no one’s dreams are too big for Alma.
Pitch black night
behind the barn
in twos.

Next season’s crop is planted
mostly where it belongs.
That which springs up,
unexpected or misplaced,
will adapt.
A fire blazes and jugs are passed. 
Summer is a time for celebration,
especially now,
after the planting
and before the real work. 

The dancers on Alma Hill
will sleep
when winter comes.
Til then, they live.
A few fall to their beds before the moon draws away.
Most are awake to see. 

The dancers on Alma Hill greet the morning,
arms outstretched.
Bacon scented air promises sustenance
to those who move fast enough. 

The dancers on Alma Hill
disperse down the mountainside.
There are animals and crops to be tended,
lunches to be eaten beside cool streams,
children to be trained-up in the ways of Alma
and dreams to be built or buried.
All things remain on Alma Hill.