Two Women Dancing
The way they mark this intricate beat in slow time,
not facing each other but side by side, angled,
hair swinging forward in doubled fluidity
as each glances just slightly over her left shoulder
and steps back, filling a small invisible box
on the floor, looks measured, Greek--I could imagine
them in robes, their long limbs firm lines beneath linen,
their hips directing the sway, each sandaled foot placed
delicately, deliberately in the pattern.
I feel the pulse too, but I’m frantic. The music
shoves me as if some god demanded a token
of complete abandon with every gesture.
Adrift, drowning, I flail--off time, lost, out of control,
my jittery eyes caught in amazement at how
they glide, slow as in strobe light but always moving
and synchronized, as when one arm mimes another
sweeping the air or both women dip from the waist
to reach down in one motion and lightly touch the floor.
This must be grace--learned and practiced, of course, but still
part of the body's deepest connection with time,
and time's with desire, as it builds and subsides
over and over in slow waves. They smile now, their eyes
half-closed. Bass, blips of rhythm guitar, snare taps--there
is so much they are floating on, with the shifting
poise of surfers. As they surrender to the god,
the fluent moves they make assert their mastery--
cool, shared, contained--over all his interwoven strands.
Our Mutual Friend
That he could see the great wheel in its turning
as it drew out the eccentrics he had found
along his winding night walks; that its whirling,
rough as it was then, hurling to the ground
some entrepreneurial god or jolting up
a trash collector, pulsed inside his bones
and drove the engine of his mind to keep
gathering, dreaming, arranging, bringing home
the thief, the saint, the earnest awkward youth,
witch, fool and miser quickened into lines
of script, then type, a passion sweeping through
the vast rhetorical windstorms of his scenes
that sing now like a train well underway,
defining the landscape with its energy.
A day's events provide the starting point.
When the crew runs out to catch a burning school
the script man looks at what they've got in cans:
He'll want those firemen for a reliable
jolt of Keystone anarchy. And use
the fat guy too, in close up, puffed cheeks pale
with shock. Then shots of kids (the current rage),
with dog--if they can drag him from the kennel.
It's hot. It's late September in L.A.
where anything can grow but nothing will
unless you pipe in water--and they do.
So everything, in the end, seems possible.
Beneath a thumping cast-iron ceiling fan
I see the script man sketching out the titles:
Uh-oh. . . after a glance at the hotfoot
flaring in the principal's shoe. The Rules
mimed by a cranky face behind pince-nez,
a bony shaking finger: Miss Quiggle,
or better yet, Miss Quibble. Then Freedom,
at last!--a close up on the gleaming bell
with its furious blur of arm (a standard trick,
the audience watching sound made visible),
students flooding the steps, then cut to a door
cracked open, a lit match--Young Criminals
as the boys skulk off, leaving a book in flames.
The crew's job is to bring back a newsreel:
the place ablaze--ladders, hoses and trucks
too much to fake, a backdrop of the real
that gives the plot its edginess. A sense
of danger--a safe danger--leavens all
the greatest scenes. The wall comes down, but not
on us. A slow burn only makes us smile.
If we fall from the ledge, we always bounce.
The classic films are seamless, yet I'm still
intrigued by what's behind their final cuts.
If we could see the crew there in a jumble
of soot-streaked skin, sweat, curses and blank stares,
what kind of movie would that be? Details
their lenses couldn't catch would stick with them:
a shriek, a whoosh of sudden flame, the smell
of burnt desks. When the comedy is done,
the crew is lost inside it. If they felt
sickened by the job when they returned,
dumping their equipment in the hall--
the tripods, reflectors and unwieldy screens,
all but the precious cameras--we can't tell.