Autumn Sky Poetry . . . Number 19 . . .

Dance at Bougival

     by Sandra Riley
     art: Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “Dance at Bougival.” 1883. Oil on canvas. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts.

She tossed her lilacs on the ground to dance,

to dance with him, lilacs forgot, his hand

snug against her rib, brim of his straw hat

hiding his eyes, his hipbones grazing hers.

Under thin birch trees on the Seine they dance

in the open air cafe, her white dress

dusting the ground strewn with cigarettes, the

lilacs. Pressure of his hand on her side,

drunken laughter and the river, they dance.

Leaning close, the drunk man in his straw hat

and best blue suit admires her cheekbones,

the violets pinned to her red bonnet,

softness of her breasts against his ribcage.

Her body supple, eager to be led,

white dress trimmed with red, his breath against her

cheek, violins and laughter, the river.

His jaw is set, her lips are parted, she

does not speak, he wants to peel back layers

of lace to be humbled by her body,

she aches for his callused palms, still they dance

under the peeling birches on the Seine.

The open air cafe at Bougival,

mandolins and violins, drunken

laughter and the river, his breath against

her cheek, his hipbones grazing hers, she tossed

her lilacs on the ground to dance.


A Columbus, Ohio native, Sandra Riley is an alum of Ohio State University and lives in Worthington with her husband, son, rat terrier, and three cats.


© 2010 Sandra Riley