Creator of the Modern Dance

 

“Affectations can be dangerous” said Gertrude Stein, after hearing about the accidental

death of Isadora Duncan in Nice, France.

 

She had a fondness for long, flowing scarves,

the freedom of Greek poses and a loose tunic

for dancing instead of a tight-fitting tutu.

She toured Europe and taught children to dance

using natural movements, not the strict

postures and techniques of ballet.

They would skip, hop and pose like

ancient bas-Relief sculptures of Greeks in museums.

But being free did not exempt her

from having a broken heart, scandalous affairs

and the excesses of drunkenness.

She was exiled from America

at twenty-two for being a communist,

bared her breast on the Boston stage

wearing a red scarf, saying, This is red, so am I.

She was a free spirit with natural movement.

But it was also the natural movement of gravity

that caused her two children and their nanny

to slowly roll down an embankment

in an automobile and drown in the river.

Natural movement, like a long, hand-painted silk scarf

flapping in the wind, its tail flirting

with the spoked rear wheels of a French convertible

driving fast along the Riviera in Nice.

 

 

 

Retail

 

At the entrance, everyone is greeted

like an old friend.

They already know the groceries are to the left

and everything else is to the right.

They came here as babies, riding in an infant seat,

graduated to the upper basket of a shopping cart

and finally to walking the aisles.

Parents and grandparents came

and taught the routine across generations.

All are welcome, and no one comments

about a woman in bedroom slippers,

a man in dirty overalls, pierced and tatted teens,

babies with dirty diapers or a toothless old man

with a ridiculous toupee.

Everything a person will need throughout a lifetime is here

because the store only stocks what sells.

Guided by newspaper inserts,

customers fill their carts and slowly move like cattle

toward a bank of twenty-five checkout lanes

only seven of which are open for business.

Arteriosclerotic lines of shoppers snake back

into the aisle behind the registers.

Children lobby for candy and toys

placed like bait near the conveyor.

Next to the main entrance, those too infirm to shop

sit on benches with their walkers, dropped off

for a few hours by a small bus.

They take comfort in watching the customers,

knowing how the routine plays out,

remembering the satisfaction of a filled cart

and being told to have a blessed day.

And while they watch the shoppers,

security cameras beneath opaque domes on the ceiling

study them all carefully like bacteria

on the slide of a microscope.

 

 

 

Glimpses

 

You don’t have to be psychic

to experience fleeting impressions.

But you do have to be in the right place

and time your glance exactly,

to see the white tails

of a doe and her fawn as

they disappear into a thicket.

Or to watch a hummingbird

briefly perch on a feeder

just long enough so you can see

the patch of color on its throat.

But there are also flashes

better not seen.

Like a stranger looking

in your kitchen window

for just a second

before he disappears.

Or the last few inches of a copperhead’s tail

disappearing under a bush as if a child

were sucking in a long strand of spaghetti.

Like the cockroach scuttling across your pillow

and diving under the headboard as you unmake the bed.

These glimpses make you wonder

what really lives in the garden

and if you need new locks.

They make you ponder on who moves about

behind the sheetrock in the kitchen

and may come out in the darkness

for a midnight dance.

 

 

© William Ogden Haynes

 

William Ogden Haynes is a poet and author of short fiction from Alabama who was born in Michigan and grew up a military brat.  His book of poetry entitled Points of Interest appeared in 2012 and is available on Amazon.  He has also published nearly forty poems and short stories in literary journals and his work has been anthologized multiple times.  In a prior life he taught speech-language pathology at Auburn University and authored six major professional textbooks.