This week’s poem, “To Donna Dancing in Her Attic,” offers a vibrant portrait of strength and joy. I love this poem’s rich details as it presents a woman’s exuberant presence moving through time, space, music and her own irrepressible sense of self.

Denise Pendleton’s poems have been published in The Acorn Whistle, the American Sports Poems anthology, Kerning and other journals. Pendleton returned 15 years ago to Belfast, where she grew up. She coordinates the local literacy program, teaches college writing, and visits her backwoods most every day.

To Donna Dancing in Her Attic
By Denise Pendleton

She is not afraid. She is alone and she
climbs toward her house’s highest
window, past the kitchen, the unopened mail,
the unfinished story of three sisters parted by a father’s
drunken wandering hands, past the wall she rubbed
and rubbed with her sponge dipped in paint
of butter’s creamy gold. After the last stair, when
she crouches down to turn the knobs, the music

uncoils her hips from their shy selves and lifts
her hands to swim through air. Her shoulders rise
without wings, her feet flutter kick in the glow of
her hardwood polished floors. And as dusk
comes on, as the accordion wails in the hands
of Eddie LeJeune and Junior Brown croons
“My baby don’t dance to nothing but Ernest Tubb,”
her window opens and Donna is gone,
gone in the thickening

velvet dark. Keep going Donna, keep on
past the lights, the houses, the streets and back roads, past
the self you saw in this morning’s mirror. Go into
the hands of the man you love and of the woman
you were born from, go back to that fire lit
in the dark Californian woods, to that slow muddy
current of the bayou you canoed. Keep going because
you are reaching the spirit that deepens you, claims you, then
releases you back to us, and when we say, “Donna,” we hear
a woman unafraid to answer, to say what is true, what is
hard, what is alive, laughing and singing in our attics.

Megan Grumbling is a poet and writer who lives in Portland. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. “To Donna Dancing in Her Attic,” copyright 2022 by Denise Pendleton, appears by permission of the author.

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