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.
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.
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.