Sometimes in the evenings after dinner,
after the spaghetti has been slurped
and I have bribed the broccoli into their bellies,
I give both of my children…the look.
When my eyes meet theirs, they know what time it is.
They push in their chairs, they stretch their legs,
and we move the table to the far end of the dining room
to clear space for what we all know is coming.
Alexa, play the post-dinner dance party playlist.
And within seconds, Martha Wash’s booming
voice rolls like thunder over our bodies.
Everybodyyy dance nowwww!
The electronic keyboard and the drums
meet in the middle of the room like two dinosaurs
ready to claim this kitchen as their own.
Immediately the jumping begins, and my daughter
is flinging her limbs like an off‐beat octopus,
hands slapping the air behind her
as if she is trying to smack anyone
who enters her sacred space.
I turn around and my son is doing the robot . . .
or is being eaten by a robot . . .
or is trapped in a universe where robots take over
the bodies of little boys in peanut butter pajamas.
Nonetheless, there is a robot somewhere.
My children, bless them, have not yet learned
how to clap on the 2 and 4
so I laugh, but also cringe, as their small hands
make a mockery of the melody around them.
Now, halfway through the song, everyone is jumping,
and I, caught up in the ecstasy of this moment, fall
to the ground and convince this no‐longer‐young
body that it is a good idea to start doing the worm.
And when my children see me, their eyes become pools
of possibility, and it is clear they see this as a clarion call
to climb onto my back. And now, here we are,
this strange trifecta, this unlikely trio; a robot
and an octopus riding the back of a worm
who will certainly need some Tylenol before bed.
It is at this moment that their mother comes home.
And when she opens the door everyone is screaming,
the speakers are blasting, and the percussion is shaking
every wall around us. We look up at her, and she looks
down at us, and we have no explanation for this strange
scene, only an invitation for her to join.
Excerpted from Above Ground by Clint Smith. Copyright © 2023 Clint Smith. Available from Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.