“If The Trees Can Keep Dancing, So Can I”


This 2013 performance of the New York City Ballet’s “New Beginnings was filmed at sunrise on the morning after a 9/11remembrance.  It was filmed on the 57th floor of 4 World Trade Center, one of the buildings rebuilt after the attack.  Internationally acclaimed choreographer Christopher Wheeldon created this dance, which features Maria Kowroski and Ask la Cour performing a tender pas de deux.  As they gracefully dance in the NYC skyline, the performers exemplify resilience rising from tragedy.

The dance is set to Arvo Pärt’s “Spiegel im Spiegel, which translates into “Mirrors in the Mirror.”  The video notes state that … “this fractal infinity mirror, has two voices~ a melodic voice over diatonic scales, and another operating within a triad on the tonic.  The music is a lovely, iterated function system, like a fractal.” 

Both grief and hope are woven through this haunting, expressive piece, mirroring our struggle with grief and hope during the coronavirus pandemic.  In April 2020, NPR issued a poetry challenge to its listeners about how they have been affected by the global coronavirus pandemic.  NPR’s poet-in-residence Kwame Alexander compiled lines from some of the submissions and created this poignant community poem.


If The Trees Can Keep Dancing, So Can I


What I’m learning about grief

is that it sits in the space between laughs

comes in the dark steals the warmth from the bed covers threads sleep with thin tendrils

is a hauntingly familiar song,

yet I can’t remember the words…


What I’m learning about grief

is that it rolls like a heavy mist settles into the crevices lingers on the skin.

Visits, then visits again

Lurking under my chair.

And, when I’m not watching

Reaches out her tiny claws

And bats my ankles —


Grief sneaks up on you.

You find yourself on your couch with a well of rage living in the pit of your stomach and nowhere for it to go.

And, It chokes you.


What I’m learning about grief,

is that it can come like a whisper or storm through loud as thunder

it leaves a hollow, to be filled with a new planting.

And, when you wake for another day that feels oddly the same as the last, It crawls right back into your lap.

an ocean of tears So, you vary the crawl with the butterfly, the backstroke with breaststroke. At some point, drowning is no longer an option.


What I’m learning about grief

Is that it is a language.

Suffering is its own speech

it will not go away just because you won’t look it in the eye


He rides shotgun when you go by old familiar places

Eventually, you will get closer and he will say

“See, it’s not so bad. I got your back.”


This pandemic, this tragedy, this fulcrum of life is a shovel unearthing secrets we wish would stay buried I learn that I am ashamed I love solitude.


Hard times call for soft people. There is softness in stillness, in staying home, in distractions deleted, in a togetherness that stretches great distances.


What I’m learning about grief

is not found in mint leaves, floating in a glass of tears boiled thrice over.

It is an acquired taste which we never crave


It likes nachos

Staying up late

Watching Scandinavian murder shows

Sleeping in

And eating cake for breakfast.


it drips, like water, It gets in everywhere

through the small unseen fissures in the ceiling. You can ignore it like dust.

Just keep yourself too busy with laundry and living.


Grief shows up unannounced

Like when your husband tells you last October

That he’s never loved you

And wants permission to leave


So you burrow the ache into carefully guarded well

And wonder if that means the memories have to go there too


What I’m learning about grief

is that it can turn you into someone you don’t want to be, can help you become someone you never thought you could be

is that it transcends color, race, Religion, gender.


is that it’s an old lover that won’t leave. trying to hold your hand again –

that it aches in the arches of feet

that its mother is loss, its father, change

Make room for it.


Is that tiny losses add up

The missed first party my son was to attend

The school days he yearns for with his friends I tell him it will be over soon


What I’m learning about grief

I learned a long time ago.

Knead grief, as you would bread.

Weave grief, as you would thread.


there is no vaccine against it — we can’t develop antibodies against it, it is something I have and something you have — but in these times it is something we have


It is anger and denial

It is chaotic laughter from splintered memories

It is jagged cries and single tears

It is numb and indifferent

It is the pinprick of light, promising

A slow semblance of normality returned


What I’m learning about grief

Is to acknowledge its presence

Its many forms and guises

Then, to use it, while reaching out

Connected To everyone who is braving this same storm


What I’m learning about grief is that it is still learning about me

Learning that I am strong and resilient

If the trees can keep dancing,

So can I.



This community poem was created using submissions by:

Jim Binford, Louisville, Ky.

Holly Redmond, Dayton, Ohio

Jennifer Sharpe, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Alicia Richarte, San Antonio

Destiny Gayz, Philadelphia

Ami Simpson, Montgomery, Ala.

Nikki Simchuk, Seattle

Helen O’Connor, Friday Harbor, Wash.

Molly Kelly, Chicago

Tim Stary, Wichita Falls, Texas

Paul Love, Austin, Texas

Michelle Nickol, Tucson, Ariz.

Michaela Esau, Hutchinson, Ka.

Elizabeth Greene, Wilmington, Del.

Elda Mengisto, Lynnwood, Wash.

Michael Hess, Albuquerque, N.M.

Melissa Blankenship, Cochran, Ga.

JoAnne Jensen, Phoenix

Patricia Mosco Holloway, Denver

Tracy Engle, Roseville, Calif.

Stephanie Hubble, Howell, Mich.

Heidi Armbruster, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Margaret Keir Berg, Grafton, Wis.

David Nelson, Des Moines, Iowa

Jasper (13 years old), Clinton, N.Y.

Delroy Roomes, Mishawaka, Ind.

Bailey Gartman, Asheville, N.C.

Angela Winfield, Auburn, N.Y.

Amy Diber, Klamath Falls, Ore.

Judy Chaet, Asheville, N.C.

Lisa Reeves, Buffalo, Mo.

Michael Ruffin, Yatesville, Ga.

Sonnet Medrano, Austin, Texas



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