Edgar Degas- Dancer on the Stage, ca. 1877-1880, Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton
I've always been drawn to Degas' paintings, so when I saw this canvas at Smith College's Museum of Art, I knew it was the perfect piece on which to practice ekphrasis. The repetition of colors and the disregard by Degas to make the scene believable as a stage immediately captivated me. It was as if the dancer was fading into the forest. And from these observations, this poem was born.
Ballet in the Woods
Is it strange to dance in the woods?
To fouetté through a dense forest,
your spinning arms and legs acting as machetes?
Is it strange to leap rather than run,
to suck in your breath rather than gasp for more?
For in these woods, the flora does the same.
Or, at least, it appears that way.
Ferns flare out like the fans of ladies on the verge of fainting at the hot ballet
The trees stretch into the sky interwoven with one another
like the movement of Tchaikovsky's and Reisinger's swans.
The wind directs the plants like a conductor’s baton
producing orchestral swells, orchestral silences.
So, how could it be strange to dance through this?
To follow the bidding of budding nature?
Would it not be more reprehensible to ignore the music,
feet falling on inappropriate beats,
shoes making too much noise?
Would not it become more difficult to find your way through,
disregarding the cues?
Yes, dancing is the only option.
Besides, if you are lost in a forest,
it would be wise to enjoy your time finding your way back.
causing a misstep
resulting in a stolen flower
A snapped twig
not even the outline your skin provides you with can save you.
You will begin to fade;
your skirt will fray at the hem,
leaving threads that litter the ground like pine needles.
Your skin will become translucent,
absorbing the colors in the sky.
Dance, and dance well,
for though you can point to an exit,
you cannot always make it there.
You cannot always leave.
Is it so strange to dance,
creating continuous momentum,
when only your loneliness and fear would otherwise
No, you must dance.
Dance away before the woods
notice your stardom,
notice how ebulliently you participate
in their performance
and draw you into their ranks
in the night.
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