Sunday, March 19, 2017

For a Young Dancer on St. Patrick's Day -- A.E. Stallings (2009)

At six, her stance is 
Like a professional’s—she waits her cue 
Intensely and with no expression, 
The youngest in the troupe of girls 
Costumed alike in skirts that flare like bells 
Embroidered with designs— 
Abstracted tangled animals and geometric vines— 
Drawn from the Book of Kells, 
Hair done up in headdresses of artificial curls 
To bounce in time to lively Irish dances, 

But it’s the music of a Shaker hymn 
When she takes her place 
Alone on the plywood stage, candescent with such fierce 
And concentrated joy 
As no smile will pierce 
And no trivial laughter can alloy, 
Each swift and nimble limb 
Inhabiting its quickness without haste, 
As if she had only herself to please. 
All gazes 

Fix on her, not because, 
Or not only because, she is a lovely, solemn elf, 
Not that her eyes 
Are just the shade of blue 
 Patterned on antique Delft 
Or that cliché of cloudless skies 
(Though bored through with the blackness of unfathomable Space), 
And it is not her fearsome self-possession 
Around her, tightly furled, 

Rather the possession of her self 
By a vaster power 
Whose presence in this low room till this hour 
Had been unknown to us 
And momently amazes, 
As the wide wind that breathes upon the world 
Enlists the tossing of high-masted trees, 
The bowing of the grass, 
The shiver of a roadside flower, 
So we may see it pass.

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