sun heart 303w - June 28, 2015s

author’s note:

During a week of national mourning, I decided to revisit and revise this poem.

It describes an event that may seem beyond belief…

…until you consider the dance mania that swept Medieval Europe.
 

OUR LIVING DANCE

A woman standing
on our east-side beach
heard about the child
and began to dance

in pain of sadness,
arms down

then slowly expanding
upwards—
   up to an orange Sun
   up to a wind-swept cloud

and when a man nearby learned
what’d caused her reaction
he responded with his own
clumsy but heart-felt steps

likewise, a teenage girl
responded with heart

and so a dance of life began—
moving from one person
to another and the next
on down the shoreline:

a process fantastic
yet natural
in terms of emotion.

The TV news had featured
the mother and child,
so when word of the dance got out
our island residents
gladly joined in:

maybe many of them
only wanted a chance
to express long-repressed sadness.

In any case
the chain grew link by link—
that magnetic serpent lengthened

over the dune hills
and across a field of wind grass
then along the rolls and folds
of the road passing through town.

Later on, songwriters wrote
of how we were all connected

but weren’t we also separate?—
we danced as individuals
even when we imitated:

several of the women
simply swayed, while holding
an imaginary baby
to the breast…

one old woman
slowly circled
a father and toddler—
her cut arms pressed against
a sunken chest.

A number of dancers
would bow in grief
as they lowered to their knees

then they’d rise once more
then they’d sink once again—

unable to completely be either way.

Some tried to defy gravity
as if to triumph over death—
leaping up, leaping up
again and again:

frustrated, determined, angry, joyful

while a few backslid
from defiant to sarcastic—

even urinary and fecal—

one tore at his own flesh

another tried to tear the flesh of another:

having once suffered similar crimes
they repeated the act committed
against the child.

But despite all the rattling
the human chain held strong

until the dance finally arrived
at our island’s west-side coast

where a high-stepper
—light as a zephyr—
floated in a gossamer gown
at the edge of a cliff
to the echo of waves below.

The lively mourners then began
to wake from their collective trance:

gradually, people fell away
there and there and there
to carry themselves home
in relieved exhaustion

and though many vowed
to return the following year
no staged event would ever be
as grand as the original dance.

Afterwards, the child’s mother
tearfully thanked all participants
from a camera in her kitchen

but in the Winter months
she nearly collapsed…

later, she told us
how she often circled
her solitary floor at night—
how she’d start to sway
with arms crossed across
her battered chest

until finally she’d fall down under
the heaviness of her grief.

But while lying there
on the hardwood
she’d somehow recover
some sense of stability

and as her wash of sadness
began to ebb
a new feeling of life
would rise within:

in response, she’d open up…she’d stand again—

puzzled by her strange new strength.

A mysterious process, yes

yet understandable
as long as you don’t
try to explain it…
 

© 2015, Michael R. Patton
butterfly soul: poems of death & grief & joy

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