An Analysis of C.K. Williams’s The Dance

Zeril Manaois
3 min readMay 15, 2021


After Cruz’s free verse poem comes another one to be analyzed. However, this one, written by C.K. Williams, celebrates another subject entirely: embracing and navigating through a world that seems too foreign at times. Williams made little use of figures of speech, and instead carefully crafts the narrative of his poem by describing vividly what the persona experienced. This work of his also carries the same theme and weight as most of his work, focusing on the fragility of the mundane, and occasionally the existential.

The poem begins with a retelling of an event in a cafe. We follow the persona as he describes the scene about a woman and her partner as they blitz through the room. A rather reserved woman can be seen (A middle-aged woman, quite plain, to be polite about it, and somewhat stout, to be more courteous still,) but as she gets up to dance with her partner, her quiet demeanor changes. (but when she and the rather good-looking, much younger man she’s with, get up to dance, her forearm descends with such delicate lightness, such restrained but confident ardor athwart his shoulder,). The following lines further narrate the impeccable confidence of the two as they sway in each other’s arms. The persona, which I assume to be another patron of the bar, watches silently, and as he watches he comes upon a realization.

The persona’s gaze upon such a scene leads him to his own musings. This is further explored in the second stanza/part of the poem. He thinks to himself about how we often underestimate ourselves and, as seen in the following lines:

“that something in the rest of us, some doubt about ourselves, some sad conjecture, seems to be allayed,… “

“which might have consoling implications about how we misbelieve ourselves, and so the world,”

Not only that, but the world we live in, too, makes us feel very small and alienated. We are so used to the cruelties of the world that it only makes sense for us to believe the sad ideas about ourselves, and we don’t mind it all due to it becoming the established reality. (nothing that we’d ever thought of as a real lack, nothing to be admired or be repentant for,). Nevertheless, the persona as the silent watcher admires the scene he beheld and comes to the realization that even though the world so often beats him down, moments like this reminds him that in a way, we are still worth more than what we perceive ourselves to be. (that world beyond us which so often disappoints, but which sometimes shows us, lovely, what we are.)

Williams’ short but sweet poem beautifully encapsulates the fragility and how fleeting the human experience is. A sorrowful ballad in one moment, then an upbeat tune in the next. It is hard to pinpoint exactly what metaphor ties in the story in the poem, but if I were to guess it had to be the dance. The dance servers as a reminder of our seemingly silent, feeble, futile existence, but this very reminder also reminds us of our power as humans and how it relates us to one another. The author also notably uses very little figurative language but instead tries to describe literally the scenario as observed by the persona. Of course, this had been Williams’ style in most of his works, preferring to be honest and prose-like to write his narratives (which had been criticized by some).

Albeit being a rather simple poem, this work didn’t fail to touch me at my core. There’s something about human connection so mundane that often fail to see, but when do see it, it just sparks something within you. As Hitt had put it, “[M]ending what we didn’t think was broken and connecting us to the wide, sad world.” When we write, don’t we put our hearts into it so as to find someone who also shares the same sentiments? Whatever may be the case, this piece by Williams’ is a beautiful look at human fragility that which we often forget.


“C.K. Williams.” ThePoetryArchive,
williams/. Accessed 8 Dec. 2020

Hitt, Sam. “The Dance — C.K. Williams.” Monday Poem, 24 May 2010,
Accessed 8 Dec. 2020.



Zeril Manaois

not everyone loved freely like me. | mapagpatawad pa ang Diyos kaysa sa'kin.