Author’s Note: The Dark Dance

The below author’s note and poems appear at the beginning of The Dark Dance, a poetry book I began working on when I gave up drinking in June 2018 and just released in February 2023. The collection explores many of the same themes as my blog (alcohol myopia, the pink cloud, traumaself-criticism, identity, and more) but in a way that’s much more personal, vulnerable, and raw.

Author’s Note

The Dark Dance made its way to you following the sunset of my tortuous twenties. I took a breath after surfacing from the depths of over a decade in the drink, and that breath was filled with poems.

Tempted young by the fiery taste of alcohol, I was drawn to the numbing effect on my hyperstimulated and obsessive-compulsive mind. As a teen, I was seething, evolving, questioning. Alcohol was my euphoria, my confidence, my exploration.

I don’t look like your stereotypical alcoholic, a term that is appropriately going out of fashion. I didn’t need alcohol in the morning. Didn’t have chemical dependency. Appeared high functioning in almost every respect. But if you looked closely, I loved to drink. And when I drank, I didn’t stop.

I went all in. Stuck in the muck of boozy blackouts, I did things that jeopardized my safety, boundaries, and good nature. I was funny and exuberant, then suddenly became daft and manipulative. Over time, my regrets compounded into a profound sense of shame and self-loathing. I lost my sense of identity. I drank more. They now have a name for this pattern alcohol use disorder. It went without detection or diagnosis. It was too much.

A year shy of 30, I quit drinking. Treading at the newly-sober surface of this strange place to avoid going back under, I began to gather poems like floats. They came with every breath, as compulsive as the drink. But they felt better the next day. They drew from my first-hand experience, yet aimed toward the whole my generation, in particular socialized into heavy drinking, angry at our circumstances, confused in our independence. And women, still young and not yet wise, whose suffering I have known. The pain of the collective can hurt more than the personal, abstracted and magnified under the lens of poetry.

Sober legs stronger than I remembered, I kicked with a new fury. I was flailing. Desperate, passionate, but not yet ready to swim. My heart, my poems were everywhere. I was another kind of mess. I was obsessed.

In time, I earned a confidence more sustainable than alcohol’s erratic boost, emboldening me to seek community among others who didn’t drink. And others who wrote. I took a bigger breath and looked back at the whole with greater clarity. I edited. I sequenced. The whole landscape changed. The poems found their arc to shore.

I continued to obsess, as I know nothing else. But the poems thanked me. They started to come together. I started to come together.

This is my offering, in return for their rescue.

As the sun sets on our current lap around it, I approach the dawn of year five free from alcohol. Firm earth at my feet, the poems are no longer mine. I leave them in your hands.

December 2022

The Dark Dance

At some point, the poem
must separate itself
from the dark dance below,

float to the surface nude,
bloodied and bruised,
in the sacrilegious
ceremonies of the sun,

kneel before
the mud and bone earth,
give in, slow,
and flow
the way of all flesh—

scavenged by the eyeballs
of friend, family, foe,
stigma turning story,
guilt letting go.

poisoning the well

she was pretty once
not enough of course
everything has cracks
to be filled

booze baby
she bathed in it
leaned back into the lap
of that loan shark

bad news bitten by
all the wrong animals
comatose charmer
dosed into debt

bag of bones
soaked and poked
aching for
an editing of sorts

knee deep in the teat
one and done with
dumped in the water
swollen on the shore

wisdom runs dry
we’ll never know why
a quiet shy
split the skin crib

ugly and sad
bafflingly had
sometimes we lose
to begin with

the drink

you’re always there with a wink
a nudge toward numbing my lowering lows
and you know
if you seize my spine
if you twist just right

my eyes will glaze over
my arms go limp
until I slump down at the trough
plunged into the puddle
of your mean-spirited sweat
your hot-blooded heat
your winning smile

and I’m stuck
pinned to the ground
with every sick
stupefying put-down
you can come up with
to keep me here

Read further: Buy a copy, see featured reviews on my poetry website, and explore the connections between the book and my blog.

Dana G

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.