Home Up A FABLE OF LEAVES ANGEL LOOP SEPTEMBER That Day September 11, 2001 November 30 On Your Way Home Sleeping Beauty The Dance Begins





I am alone with the dancers tonight.

I am no longer afraid of my fear.

Teach me then, dancers, in this absence of fear

to make every step a choice of precision

and of wild indulgence in the music of the heart.


The dance begins.  Like a woman’s name.  I hold a rose

in my arms, later her crayon portrait of love.  I dance.  She

promised freedom.  Then the myth crept in, the velvet-pawed

confusion.  Say you are mine.  Forever.  My useless “O.K.”

Sometimes only the myth gets broken, and sometimes


the dance begins.  Deeper.  I dance.  I am with you tonight.

18th Century Crete.  The Cretans conquered by the Turks.

The women lay down their usual tasks, their baskets,

their dreams, to dance inside this burden myth of ownership.

Hand in hand they dance, a garland of women.


They dance on the dust of clay goddesses.

There is grass in the crags of the rocks.

Something gives them this power.  Their hearts

beat to the music, foreign to their conquerors, a bold beat.

They translate that it is a dance of celebration.  They laugh.


They have already laid aside their other laughter,

that of mothers braiding their daughters’ hair,

or of the dance steps of the plump-faced girls

tumbling to their first retsina at the age of three.

They laugh this new laughter and dance


steps learned in effortless play for a very long time,

now the effortless precision taking over.

They fill the amazed eyes of their new owners with lust.

They dance high into the cliff, the sea rolling

below, the mirror night.  The cypress trees are nervous in the wind.


Ekaterina, you falter.  Hold my hand more tightly then.

We must go through with this.  Irene, if you can’t smile,

then don’t, but move your feet as though you do. 

Nana’s face is full of tears.  What can I do?  I love her!

I don’t mind my own so much.  But hold my hand more tightly now.


Forgive me, I invent.  I do not hear what they speak.

Probably simple words.  The formal song they sing is louder:

“se agapo zoe.  I am in love with life.”

And underneath, their bodies, in the wordless stunning,

dance this silence: that women cannot be owned,


that, one by one, they climb on their song into courage

to loosen the nearest dancer from their hand

and simply drop into the sea below, its roaring

I am in love with this life, and its silent echoing:

death is not best, but better than


this bondage you propose.  So extinguish the lamps

of the lupines and the myrtle, and of a life

turned terror under manmade myth of war and ownership.

And wash the broken bodies with the water of the sea.

For death is not best, but better than.


They translate that it is a dance of celebration.  I know.

Just as I know the kiss of moonlight on their mouths, sealing

not the whimper or the wail, but the song, the freedom, the I am

in love with this life.  The cypress trees no longer shiver

in the wind for them.  The moon tears light from the wild waves


like firebrands.  They fall into the vast abyss of memory

like seeds as I return to my own body’s knowledge

that the dance is everywhere where joy and freedom

ring out louder than all pain, where one need not pray

for mighty cliffs or knowledge of ripe waters,


only that the dance be strong

enough to bring the song of recognition to some women’s eyes,

to make them want to spit out all the dust of muttering

“it is a woman’s lot”, enough to make them want to fill

their mouths with claiming kinship with the dancers


in marvelous confusion.  Were the dancers truly Cretan?

Weren’t they instead from Macedonia?  Or Norwegian?

Weren’t they the witches who once leapt like lemmings

to the sea to die, and to remain alive forever, singing

in the steps of those who dance for them, and for themselves?


I am alive with the dancers tonight,

never alone, as I practice their promise of freedom.

Through long years of moments women whispered me their words,

and the solid rhythm grew in me: se agapo zoe.  I am

in love with life.  The dance begins.  Forever.  Now.