No End of Dancing Days

Whenever anyone tries to shut you down, you are touching something sensitive, and there is a reason for the negative response. And–having touched nothing that I can tell, the word-processing program I am writing this on just disappeared my cursor, causing me to stop typing and try to figure out where it went. What was I going to say?

Before the interruption, I was about to explain that being shut down is a clue to where the hidden power lies. You are approaching too closely to a protected area. Mockery and jeering are typical methods of blocking a dreaded topic from being spoken of. Watch out for such places, and spend some time there. What is being suppressed?

Poets supposedly have license to take words where others are not encouraged to go, but even we face restrictions on all sides. We all know that some topics are approved, even fashionable; others are distasteful for any number of constantly-changing reasons. Curiously, many of those reasons focus on things associated with women–emotion, intuition, spirituality, change. Feelings–irrational, subtle, sometimes uncontrollable–that create change. Anyone might hesitate if they knew they were about to feel something that might change how they see themselves forever, so how to keep that from happening? It’s not enough to stay away from poets and the worrying things they say; better to get to them and try to stop them before they start. Ever heard of something called–the Church?

So many topics, or subjects, or domains of creativity are unfashionable, unapproved, and casually made fun of. The stuff of poetry is and always has been, everywhere, intense feeling and the change it brings in its wake, which cannot then be distinguished from magic–whatever one considers magic to be. And the intense feelings that call it forth–these are dismissed by those more critical than imaginative as ‘adolescent.’ There is a key power-word! What do sensitive adolescents obsess about? The very things that we are taught to deride as adults: any direct focus on art, romance, dreams–any admission that these things are being sought directly–and any hope of a response, certainly; any visible devotion as opposed to public piety. When I was young, there was a simple test: Have you read The White Goddess? Did you admire it? Mocked and dismissed. Not because it isn’t real–but because it is too embarrassing for critical sorts to acknowledge that it is entirely too real and means far too much. Here is another example: Where do young women, still coming of age, congregate to give themselves over to spirit? Church? More likely pop music concerts. They can abandon themselves to feelings of love and desire worked to such a pitch that they bring ecstasy. Though their ecstasy is fleeting, it is real, and those who partake of it will never forget it. They should have all they want of it, and more. Some poets would do anything in their power to bring it to them. But we all know how much the world respects young women. And poets.

So one could do worse than to refuse and reverse the blocking, and then to approach the proscribed sensitive places and mine them deep. Most of what will be found there is already well-known, but experiencing it all over again makes it far more fascinating. Every inhibition banished increases strength. And strength, once acquired, is somehow possible to lend. Borrow a little here if need be, and rave on.

And now I’m about to try to answer my own next question: What does one do when one’s ‘personal myth’ becomes known and is no longer a mystery to be unveiled? My suspicion is that one starts over, all over again. True stories always have deeper levels and secondary tales untold. All of this is still waiting–did you really have something more reasonable to do?

Dancing has been mentioned here before. It isn’t a metaphor; I started dancing as a child and only gave it up because of old-person joint damage. I knew it couldn’t last forever, so years ago I started using dance-trances as a storage battery. So much vision and energy remain alive within the permanent circle created by years and years of faithful practice. What I was seeing in dancing was seeing me. This is from that place:

22 February 2021


Seen by Dancing

I’d been told you were shy, so I lingered a little remotely before drifting into your ken–

only to find you’d been waiting and almost lost faith. Oh, the ways she escapes mortal men.

In the main, it seems magic will hover, then vanish–taking away with it so much you want.

Sometimes she’s followed you down the sad pathways–I’ve seen it in dancing. You’re starting to haunt–

your own self, recoiling from too-early contact. Poor little creature, in shivering fear,

help as I turn the next page of the story and what to uninnocent eyes should appear–

but a child with an apple in one hand, a feather and something too heavy to bear home alive

in the other. He’s wincing and limping; he’s used to it now, but it’s forced his frustration to strive

where there used to be laughter the length of the journey. Woe to the walker who goes alongside;

this flagging person is oftimes betrayed by his penchant for someone who won’t be a bride

because far higher causes have called her to worship at altars so distant, he’s faint as his hopes.

Staggering downhill, his body grown heavy–he’s passed it, the peak; these are steepening slopes

to the river that runs through the orcharded valley; wherever he wanders today, he’ll be found.

Up to his neck in a dream of a misty grey love-marveled story: A dead body drowned

its unfortunate teller in order to tell it more strangely, with watery figures–afloat

in the first rushing current, a sailor who worshipped the Moon. Now his sight is entirely remote

from its first place of contact with worlds outside windows where visions grow sharper and greener each day.

Little one carrying one pinion feather, the woe in your eyes for the one gone away

has attained to a depth of inordinate sorrow so eerie–so silently febrile with dread–

a splinter that flies from the tip of a newly lit match through a window inside his sore head–

When the wild conflagration is over and nothing but ashes remains on the floor of this room,

how will the child have begun the recounting of magic that spelled a whole world’s certain doom

when it entered his broad field of vision in serial forms, every one of them limpid with grace,

dripping like tears down the slightly-averted left profile of her who would not show her face

to anyone else–and will not to him, either, entirely? She’s waiting–he hasn’t tried yet.

Evening will lower itself very gently, immense with the cast vatic shadow of wet

night altars in rain in a valley of orchards and springs that are fed by a source he can’t see.

Why will he stand with his bowed head uncovered and weep for the lover who’s here, even–me?

Someone once whispered so softly, so shyly, and reached with a hand that so trembled–poor child,

the reasons are many, but one bright among them is burning with shame that, if left to grow wild,

he might–will–on the instant–in rushing of winds down a mountain on fire like the peaks of our past–

dissolve into oceans of limitless weeping. This cannot be real. It’s all happened so fast.


About J

formal verse poetry and commentary at
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