Watching her neighbours happily dancing with their children sets Elise Partridge off on a sadder trail of thought about her own parents; but the poem ends positively with a conga! Partridge (1958 -2015) was born in Philadelphia and had degrees from Harvard and Cambridge Universities.

Much of her later, and creative, life was spent in Vancouver. The posthumous volume of her Collected Poems, The If Borderlands, has been published as a tribute by New York Review Books (NYRB) at £11.99.


I can see just so much

from my studio flat

through the slanting snow:

my neighbour sweeps his daughter

around their condo

in off-kilter, three-

quarter time: whisk,

promenade, slow dip –

she must be riding his toes –

while his wife whirls their son

to Benny Goodman,

or looping bluegrass fiddles.


The last time my parents waltzed:

their wedding day.

After she flung her violets,

he tossed a champagne flute.

“I hated him doing that.”

Wasn’t it exciting,

I asked once. She frowned.

“I wanted it over with.”

As they duck sparse confetti

in this gray shot, knowing how

it ended, I hold my breath.


My neighbour’s daughter claps

as they lurch right

again, by the rumpled

couch; her mother

can’t stop grinning.

The girl stumbles, her father

swoops her up to

the rafters, the son

swats a balloon.

They flick off the ceiling bulb,

conga out of sight

to their inaudible tune.