The Dancing Chair
by Hal Sirowitz

The best time to deal with
old age, father said, is not
when you’re already old,
but when you’re young
and your bones still
have some elasticity
and won’t break the moment
you bend them.  That’s
why you should work on your
posture now, so by the time
you reach old age, you
won’t be slouching, but
will have the eyes of
a goldfish, looking
only straight ahead.
Because if a chair is
going to sneak behind you
and all your attention
is focused on walking
forwards, it doesn’t
matter what that chair
decides to do—it can waltz
for all you care—because
you’ll be out of harm’s way,
not in a position to collide with it.
But if you start slouching,
the slouch will determine
what you see.  And believe me,
you don’t want to see a dancing chair.
Because you’ll be inclined
to dance with it, and you can fall.

by Hal Sirowitz

I read somewhere that a cow
can only walk up stairs but
not down.  Even though I have
Parkinson’s, I’m a step ahead
of a cow.  I can walk up or down
without much trouble.  And the
one time I fell, I was walking up
but lost my balance and fell down,
which proves that I’m not
a cow, because for a split second,
I had the choice of where to fall—
up or down—and unceremoniously
took  the down route, because it
takes you faster to where you
want to go—at the beginning
of the stairs, so I could do it right this time.


Hal Sirowitz is the author of six volumes of poetry, including Mother
and Father Said.  He was a 1994 recipient of an NEA Fellowship
in Poetry and is the former Poet Laureate of Queens, New York.  His
poem “
How to Act When Being Murdered” appeared in the Spring
2006 issue of the
Apple Valley Review.  In addition to writing, Sirowitz
worked as a special education teacher in the New York public school
system for 23 years.   

On “A Step Above Cows”:
It’s a true story.  I’ve had Parkinson’s Disease for 17 years.  
Therefore, my balance and mobility aren’t what they used to be.  
I have to think about each step I make.  I carelessly ran upstairs to
hand the phone to my wife.  While reaching out to hand it to her I
could feel myself slipping.  I only had on socks.  Time was in slow
motion and I thought I could decide which direction—up or down—
to fall.  I wasn’t hurt.  I lived to write the poem, which came about
after I read a Scholastic book on animal facts.  A cow has a
learning disability—it’s unable to walk down a staircase but can
walk up one.  Everyone liked the poem in my Parkinson’s support

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 5, Number 1
(Spring 2010)

Copyright © 2010
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.
A Step Above Cows