“In short, no pattern is an isolated entity. Each pattern can exist in the world only to the extent that it is supported by other patterns: the larger patterns in which it is embedded, the patterns of the same size that surround it, and the smaller patterns which are embedded in it.” -Christopher Alexander
Today features a white sky and a steady rain. Although Brooklyn’s trees are still green, just a few hours north, where I am this weekend, the leaves have started to display their colors.
Last Tuesday night I attended the High Vibration Waves 5Rhythms class at the Joffrey in the West Village, taught this week by Peter Fodera. I had a bad cold with a headache and wasn’t sure what kind of energy I would have, but decided to go anyway to see what might happen.
Last weekend at the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton with my six-year-old son, Simon, we talked about the artworks we encountered, trying to identify what might be the main conceptual concern for each artist. Encountering a Dan Flavin sculpture, which featured one, two and then three vertical, white fluorescent lights, I asked Simon what he thought this artist was mostly concerned with. He looked intently at the artwork, then quickly said, “Patterns. And math.” (He is getting pretty sophisticated, this small son. He also said this week, on riding his scooter down the block, “Ah! My back! I’m just not as agile as I was when I was three!”)
In the Flowing part of the class’s first wave, Peter encouraged us to “walk on every inch” of the floor, and to “look for the empty space.” I langored in this opening act, my feet whispering to the floor. Then, Peter invited us to “walk with someone for a while” and to “see their feet.” In Flowing, I love to be pushed and pulled along by the gestures and trails of the dancers around me, occasionally gliding in unison in a shared motion. I particularly love to step into Peter’s wake as he sails through the room—it is like drafting in the water behind a champion swimmer; and as the seas part for him I move in the space he opens up. I slipped from person to person. Even when I have a thought of where to go, something would interfere with my trajectory, and carry me into an entirely different direction. Peter’s next instruction, to “walk with someone” and “see their flow,” had the surprising effect of closing down the movement of the dynamic room. We just couldn’t seem to swoop in and out of each other, and instead became mired in partnerships in one small spot of floor as soon as we joined with another dancer.
When my energy is low, sometimes it is the energy of partnership that carries me through. In Chaos, and continuing through Lyrical and Stillness and the wave’s end, I joined with a dancer I had not danced closely with before. We moved into gentle contact, very much in the hands—in subtle, expressive communion. As our dance concluded, we touched our hands together and rocked back and forth, coming through the wave’s other side once again into Flowing.
In a different partnership during the class—this time with a dancer I was reluctant to partner with—I found myself backing away from him. In the process, I accidentally bumped into a woman behind me. I held onto her arm gently, wanting to express that I was sorry. She tore away from me with a furious snort, moving to the other side of the room.
In the second wave, Peter repeatedly instructed us to partner, then to find a repetition and carry it with us around the room, joining others in brief partnership. As we were moving from partner to partner, I crossed paths with a friend I had sought out but found unavailable earlier. We both smiled, stepping into each other. I am a very small woman; and this friend is a very tall man. He carries his size gracefully, but when I dance with him sometimes I wonder if he feels like he has to contain himself around so many smaller bodies. Absorbed in Lyrical, we did find repetitions, though from the outside, it might not have looked like it. Rather than big, easy-to-follow, repeating gestures as sometimes arise in Lyrical, we skittered down chains of intricately arranged repeating patterns, which would then shift and re-configure, taking form then never landing for long enough to be defined or understood. Our dance featured some bursting and chasing gestures, too. I would rise up on my highest toes, reaching for his height, wanting to be expansive along with him, then squiggle myself down and away. He laughed at my antics, joining in, too. After this long, intricate, layered exchange, we finally ended up doing the initial assignment—a simple repetition—grinning wildly as we both realized it, rocking back and forth.
We spoke for a few moments after class about our experience. “That was such a great dance! You just kept finding all of these patterns—all of this footwork—so intricate!” he said. His compliments opened the doorway to an obliquely procured insight, about one way that energy can be perceived and worked with, something I hadn’t considered before.
I accidentally bumped into the same woman I accidentally bumped into earlier in the class. Later, as we moved around the room, she glared into my eyes as she passed me, both arms raised, her elbows bent. I spent a few moments wondering if she might actually tell me off after the class. I’ve been there! I know how it is to be triggered by someone. And here I was triggering someone! I even prepared a response to the glaring woman in my fantasy version of our possible future exchange. I had two different versions, but in the one I preferred I would say, “I’m sorry I offended you. Thank you for the feedback.”
This conversation with my tall friend helped me find language for a category of repetitive motions that I have experienced in practice. One kind of repetition, I call “catching a glitch.” This can be emotional and personal. For example, when I first started dancing, I had been holding myself so tightly for so long that I found I needed to collapse to the floor again and again. Through all the collapsing, I was able to mine the gesture for insight, and eventually the pattern released me. This is when a repetition suddenly becomes compelling and you follow it along its fully trajectory to see what it has to teach. According to 5Rhythms teacher Kierra Foster Ba, Gabrielle Roth, the creator of the 5Rhythms practice, used to tell a story about a painful memory from babyhood that was lodged in her wrist—and that took years of working with to arrive at.
Another kind of repetitive motion—of pattern—is, I think, the kind identified by my tall friend. Perhaps in this case, the pattern that gets expressed is a tiny window into something that is bigger than any one of us. Perhaps it is something mundanely cosmic—the very movement of energy as it flows around and through us.
Three days later, at Tammy Burstein’s Friday Night Waves class, I arrived late, during the transition of Flowing into Staccato. I know how important it is to ground myself in Flowing, and lowered myself to the floor for a few brief moments. Sometimes, however, you have no choice but to step right into Staccato. On these occasions, all I can do is hope that all the Flowing I have practiced over the years has been integrated enough that I can rely on it. Tammy played a Michael Jackson song that I love. Instructed to partner in Staccato after just a few minutes of being in class, I joined with a smiling woman, actually singing the lyrics as we moved in joyful unison, expanding diagonally into the available spaces around us.
At work that afternoon, a colleague had “thrown me under a bus,” in my own words. When I told a friend about the incident, he said, “No, she didn’t just throw you under the bus. She tied you up in rope, rolled you into the street and then beckoned a bus to come toward you!” I was called into a meeting with supervisors, with no warning, no chance to work up to it, no chance to prepare. As I walked to the meeting, I correctly guessed its nature, and realized that I would have to step right into Staccato, praying for as much skillfulness as I could muster. I let this colleague speak, only expressing myself at key moments, as she dug herself a very big hole. It was truly remarkable. Sometimes, you have no choice but to step right in, and hope that your relationship to the ground is well enough established that it will carry you through, even when the stakes are high.
The valuable opportunity to practice stepping straight into Staccato gave way before long; and, by the end of the class, once again, I explored a new way of perceiving patterns of energy during dance. Moving again in Lyrical, I entered a partnership with a very practiced friend who seems to have a gift for seeing energy. Though I love to soar, this friend prefers to remain grounded in Lyrical due to the need to care for his knees; and I met him there. I experimented with resistance, dragging my feet slowly along the floor as part of the foundation of my gestures. As we transitioned to Stillness, I let go of the dragging feet, but instead found woven resistance residing in the spaces of the air, moving along with this partner, expressing, again, the energetic patterns in and around us.
October 19, 2016, Brooklyn, NYC
This blog consists of my own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms® dancing path, and is not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms® organization or teacher.
Image: Fibonnacci Spiral children’s artwork published on afaithfulattempt.blogspot
For the second week in a row, I unexpectedly attended the Sunday Sweat Your Prayers class. For the second week in a row, the class was guest taught by an accomplished teacher from another country, in this case Hannah Loewenthal from South Africa. And for the second week in a row, I explored new and delightful aspects of partnership.
I took a long time to gather myself on entering; and I went silently through a ritual of bowing into the space. I felt emotional and took tiny steps, moving like water through the many floor-moving bodies that were distributed equally around the studio. I found a spot near the middle of the room and began to move in energetic circles, rolling over the back of my head again and again and letting the gestures cast me in arcs, pausing to tense in key stretches as I was quickly called to action.
Hannah, perhaps noting the quickening of the room, dialed the music back to tonal and encouraged us to take our time in arriving. To find the breath and our relationship to it. Most of us were on our feet by then, and the room seemed to move inside clear gel, slow and graceful, dipping collectively into the Stillness inside Flowing. Hannah coaxed us through a meditation of body parts, beginning with the feet. Interestingly, the only part of her narration I recall is about attention to the spine, which I reveled in, remembering that one partner of many years told me early in my 5Rhythms career that I flow with my spine, not just with my feet. Before long, I stepped into this very partner—someone I rarely meet in Flowing—but on this day it felt like the parts of our spines that sit behind and inside the rib cage were enacted, and palpable energy from that part of the body mingled as we moved. We were gentle, but retained a hint of the precise edges that I love about dancing with him.
I have often been amazed at this partner’s ability to meet me exactly where I am. For a long time, I assumed he could just go anywhere. For example, he seemed to be the only one who I could meet in the sharpest of Staccato fields. Over time, I have come to believe that it only looks like he can go anywhere, when in fact it is because he can see the room so clearly that he knows who is in the same energetic field, and then moves into the dances that call him directly.
With my eyes nearly closed and sunken low into my hips, I luxuriated in the coiling and whipping of my spine. A partner I shared a long dance with recently stepped right beside me. I felt him and opened my eyes, laughing, as the last time we met I felt I had stepped into a clearing and felt like I surprised him. This time, he playfully surprised me—a lovely kind of balance.
In the first wave, I hung back in Flowing Staccato and never fully expressed Staccato before the room was barreling into Chaos, loud with joyful vocalizations, including my own. I loved seeing Hannah move in unbridled Chaos, her long arms sailing up and down around her, her long neck in concert. Somehow early in my 5Rhythms career, I got the impression that raising the arms high up is a no-no, but in the last several years, I have been investigating more and more of the sky and the expansive space above. In fact, Hannah repeatedly invited us to dance with the space around us, even when we were told to take partners.
Indeed, there was an unusual amount of space in the room, owing in part to the fact that many people seemed to be drawn to gather in small, quietly moving groups. At moments, the room looked like a sea-bottom kelp-forest, waving collectively with the energetic currents.
Hannah taught the class in two waves, as is the usual custom in a two-hour class, but did not pause for verbal teaching in the middle of the class. Although the frame was two main waves, many tiny little waves expressed inside the larger structure; and Hannah repeatedly chanted, “The rhythms inside the rhythms.”
In Chaos, I spent long periods dancing with myself. I note that during Chaos I am least likely to partner. I wonder if I can extrapolate that I am very self-sufficient in Chaos, very comfortable and confident in Chaos—at least at this point. Often, for me, trances arise here; and I am inclined toward my own inner world. I am much more likely to meet a partner in any of the other four rhythms.
My dance was delightful throughout. My energy level was constant except when I was swept completely away by effusive expression, which gave rise to uncontainable bursts. I found joy in partnership, and was receptive (on this day) to everyone in the room. I found joy in my own inner experience. I found joy in brand new ways of moving, rolling out completely uncontrived. I found joy in stepping into moving with a brand new partner, and, too, stepping in with an intrepid long-time friend who is always willing to off-road from the basic map and from the many notations and traces we have recorded over the years on our uncharted, unchartable adventures.
Leading us from the Stillness of the first wave into the Flowing of the second, Hannah did something curious. Instead of guiding from the feet first as is nearly always the instruction with Flowing, she invited us to begin with the hands, working our way through the body and into embodied Flowing from there. I recalled Kierra’s aside the week before when she taught the Friday Night Waves class, that in many cultures the hands are considered to be the “messengers of the heart;” and I wondered if the hands might be particularly important in Hannah’s personal practice. As I remarked about the class the week before with Anne Marie, taking class with a teacher I have never encountered before can be very valuable—perhaps just as my grandmother, Muriel Grigely, used to feel about stepping into a different church for the first time.
Hannah invited us to partner; and I found a good friend. Both of us were faster than the music; and we giggled and super-sped up, then slowed down and leaned in toward each other: slowing, moving around. Instructed to turn the partnership into a foursome, two others joined us, though the group remained very porous, with several people from other groups or dancing individually moving partially in the field we created. Without instruction, the group dissolved and my partner and I returned to each other briefly before moving on to other parts of the room.
I noticed a friend I recently shared a sublime dance with standing a bit off to the side. I considered trying to engage him, but thought better of it, wondering if it might not be best to let him have whatever experience he was having. I also felt hesitant because our most recent dance was so beautiful—sometimes I feel shy after sharing an experience like that. I noticed that another dancer did succeed in drawing him out and that he seemed to move cheerfully and fluidly, as their group at moments intersected with ours at the point when we were told to dance in groups of four.
During both waves, in the bridges from Lyrical into Stillness, repetitions bubbled up. In the second wave I found a gestural expression of the disbelief that precedes grief, my hands sobbing, crying, “No, no, no, no, no!” I didn’t connect it to a specific experience. It didn’t make me cry, but I could feel its resonance. In Lyrical, I experimented with an awkward groundedness, then took off and sailed throughout the room with luxurious, expansive gestures, pouring my smiling eyes into whoever’s eyes I could manage to meet, high on the toes and raised into the front chest.
As the final wave of the class began to draw itself to a close, I stepped into a partner’s field who I recently shared a long dance with, slightly hesitant. He smiled, inviting, and we resumed a previous class’s investigation of tiny, crossed over steps, flashed foot soles, elbows held close to the torso, occasionally moving in a way that was as closely contained as could possibly be without touching. I moved in and out of more stretched and extended gestures and big, back-crossing steps, but drew back closely into this minute and quirky investigation again and again, delighted.
We came seamlessly into unselfconscious contact, each planting the outside of one foot to touch, side by side. He leaned into me and I returned the gesture, at once pushing and yielding, then stepped around his planted foot, curving us into an arc. The room fell away, the sound of breath grew stronger. We moved in a little matrix, opening at moments into a kind of ballroom glide. At other moments we balanced, finding small swinging movements inside the balances. I noted that he is closer to my small scale than many men, and found balancing exceptionally dynamic and available, feeling like the animations you see of shifting crystalline forms, alive and clear, seeing and seen.
The process of leaving was overlayed with a conversation with a friend. As we took the elevator from the 5th floor down and stepped onto 6th Avenue, he expressed that sometimes he feels like he has to really make a commitment to be in “his” dance. Otherwise, he would just be partnered all the time, doing someone else’s dance—a sentiment I have heard expressed hundreds of times. He was already hugging me goodbye; and we didn’t have time, but this is what I wanted to say:
“This might be unique to me, but at this moment I don’t feel that I have a “my” dance. And I don’t think there is a lack in that. Just as there is no “me” that is separate and self-existing, there is no “my” dance. My deepest, most emotional, or most idiosyncratic personal expression is not separate from any of the dances I have shared with partners or in community. For me, dancing alone and dancing with others are not opposites, but are shades of difference—all part of the beautiful display comprising the myriad forms of this tiny, precious life.”
June 19, 2016, Brooklyn, NYC
This blog consists of my own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms®dancing path, and is not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms® organization or teacher.
(Images: The tangled rainbows is an image from my own studio. The beautiful sunset photo of the Brooklyn Bridge was taken and shared with me by 5Rhythms teacher Hannah Loewenthal .)
On Friday, I spent much of the afternoon listening to the funeral service for Muhammed Ali that took place his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky on June 10. One reporter said that she was concerned that the driver of the hearse carrying Ali’s body might not be able to see, given the massive volume of flowers thrown onto it by thronged onlookers along the nine-mile procession route. I went to the beach in the afternoon after I got out of work, and sat meditating on the sand, feeling the pull and relax of the waves, and the tangling dynamics of complex tides. On the way to and from the beach, I listened to the many eulogies, and reflected on what a perfect combination of militancy and humor Ali had employed in his activism, and on what a fearless humanitarian he had been.
I arrived right on time to Tammy’s Friday Night Waves class and was happy to see that Kierra Foster-Ba was guest teaching. Kierra, like all 5Rhythms teachers, has a unique perspective on the 5Rhythms; and I particularly love her non-didactic approach. For example, I have often heard her suggest an exercise and follow her teaching with “I invite you, not I command you.”
I was very happy to be there. The week before, I wrote,
“I did not attend a 5Rhythms class this week. (list of good reasons here) Is this a sign that my commitment to 5Rhythms practice has gone flat? Despite a sometimes crushing schedule and a great deal of responsibility, I have always managed to get myself to at least one class a week. All of my excuses seem excellent, but I am looking at myself with my head tilted and one eyebrow raised right now. Although some flexibility is welcome, I will be having a serious conversation with myself if another week passes without formal practice.”
Muhammed Ali’s famous discipline comes to mind. He said, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” It’s not like he just woke up one day to be one of the greatest boxers and human beings in the world—he understood that commitment is a decision that happens every day, sometimes in every moment. He also said, “I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given. I believed in myself, and I believe in the goodness of others.” I am not trying to be a champion 5Rhythms dancer, but I am deeply inspired by Ali’s integrity and by his commitment to his practice.
Arriving, I was nervous about several mild injuries and wrapped my knee with an ace bandage from the medical kit. I was surprised to find the binding very effective, and that no persistent injury presented during the course of the class.
During the first wave, Kierra offered almost no instructions; and the dance unfolded patiently. Near the end of the first wave in the rhythm of Lyrical, I partnered with a friend who I love to dance with. The night before, I had been to a Taikoza concert—a kind of theatrical, Japanese folk drumming that totally captivated my small son and his friends. The influence presented strongly in this partnership. We leapt and bound, with theatrical pauses, strong eye contact, and bursting, spinning gestures. At moments, we moved as though we were in ceremonial costume, twittering, with big, fanned-out bustles and high, sharp collars. In our closing gesture we looked into each other’s eyes, each spun quickly one at a time, then returned to eye contact. Then we both bowed, smiling, and moved on to different parts of the room.
In the interlude between the first and the second waves that often features verbal teaching, Kierra asked if there was anyone in attendance who was doing the 5Rhythms for the first time. Three or four people raised their hands in response. She said that she would talk about the practice of 5Rhythms first, explaining what we actually do, then she would talk briefly about the philosophy of 5Rhythms. To paraphrase, she said that in the first of the five rhythms—Flowing—we drop down into our feet. We can be Flowing in our arms and upper body, too, but if we do that we tend to stay “in the head.” The reason we drop into our feet, keeping them in continuous motion, is so we can become fully embodied. She then said that the second rhythm—Staccato—is the opposite of Flowing. It is directional, angular and specific. In Chaos, we let it go, then in Lyrical, we let go of the letting go—lightening up. We move into our hands and arms, (which are considered to be the messengers of the heart in many cultures). In Stillness, we are still moving, it is just that we are moving with still energy. One person’s Stillness might be Flowing Stillness, another’s might be Staccato Stillness, another’s Lyrical Stillness, but it is all moving with that still energy. During the entire litany, Kierra moved as she spoke, demonstrating what each rhythm looked like for her in that moment.
Later, contemplating, I couldn’t really identify which part of the teaching was the philosophy, but I think it consisted of the following. She talked about what it would be like to really not care what you look like when you are dancing, to really let go of the ego. “Sometimes I wonder if I was really like BLAH! If I was really out there, If you would let me be your teacher? Do I always have to say, ‘You have to be on the beat!’ to myself?” She went on to say that her ego says, “I don’t think so. I don’t think you would let me be the teacher.” This, she continued, is because the ego hates to be laughed at. She concluded with, “That’s really the point of this practice, to drop into the body, to find the wisdom there.”
Kierra then invited (not commanded!) us to experiment with being goofy, with not caring at all about how we look, with even being wiling to look silly. In addition to mentioning the word “goofy,” Kierra said something else about Staccato, and Muhammed Ali came to mind again—what I had been contemplating earlier about how the great boxer, humanitarian and activist had so masterfully combined militancy and humor to great effect, epitomized, perhaps, by his most famous quote, “Float like a butterfly; Sting like a bee.”
Kierra said something curious about partnering that I have been contemplating. Speaking about how the ability to sink into the wisdom of the body is central to 5Rhythms practice, Kierra said, “Sometimes we partner or we dance in a group, and it’s OK to be social, but the point is really to find the body’s wisdom.” I’m not sure if part of what she was expressing was that partnering can be interesting, but that the true practice happens on your own, or if I read into her remark, but it gave me a jumping off point for consideration.
Lately I have been thinking a lot about the role and function of partnering in 5Rhythms practice. You might note that in my most recent text, I wrote that Jason Goodman brought up partnering when he taught the Friday Night Waves class the week before. The way I see it, we are born alone and we die alone, but the rest of the path is completely filled with people. Lately, I have come to believe that being alone and partnering with others are like two wings of a bird—to borrow a metaphor from Buddhism—both completely necessary for flight. Deeply connecting individually allows us to deeply connect with others, deeply connecting with others helps us to connect more fully with the depths of ourselves, and so on. I love this statement by Muhammed Ali: “Friendship…is not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”
It occurs to me that relationship is the arena of ego, and that it makes sense that in relationship could be the most productive place to work with ego.
On Friday night, in my journal I wrote, “I have been completely subsumed by the all. Both being with others and being alone are key components of my personal path.”
A dancer—someone I have spent hundreds of hours in sublime, moving partnership with—appeared shortly before Kierra’s talk. As soon as our paths crossed, I jumped enthusiastically into his field and began to bound and leap. I remembered that the last time I had danced with him, I had completely overdone it, injuring my back and suffering for days. I reminded myself that I had to be gentle or I would pay for it later. For years, he and I met in enthusiastic and athletic Chaos and Staccato. On this day, the refrain in our dance was an enlivened and energetic Stillness, a thread woven through all the rhythms, that we kept dropping back into. We fully embraced Kierra’s wonderful goofiness invitation, even vocalizing and making absurd faces, falling to the ground and tumbling, then rolling back up—sometimes with one of us on the ground and the other upright, still engaged in a related gesture, arcing and playing around the other’s field. At certain points in our dances, all activities of selfing ceased completely; and I moved simply in the energetic field. In our final turn of the evening, I experienced myself in what I understand as the Body of Joy, visibly surrounded by light in the shape of my body. I dispensed with all armor and energetic defenses and my field intersected with my partner’s and with the people in close proximity.
Re-reading this text, I realize I am struggling to express the depth of my admiration for Muhammed Ali, and to express why he is so important to me, personally. It is not only Ali’s words and actions that touch me, but that the world, despite its continued brutality and racism, loved and still loves Ali—saw his genius and his beauty and his power—gives me hope for humanity. Gives me hope for all of us. Thank you, Muhammed Ali, for believing in yourself, for believing in the basic goodness inherent in all human beings, and for your tireless generosity in the face of a world that could not get enough of you.
“I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale; handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail; only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick; I’m so mean I make medicine sick.” -Muhammad Ali
“If they can make penicillin out of mouldy bread, they can sure make something out of you.” –Muhammed Ali
“The man who has no imagination has no wings.” –Muhammed Ali
June 11, 2016, Brooklyn, NY
This blog consists of my own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms® dancing path, and is not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms® organization or teacher.
(The image of Muhammed Ali in Africa comes to me by way of the website https://atechnologyjobisnoexcuse.com)
When Jilsarah Moscowitz taught the first Sweat Your Prayers class of the spring season two years ago, for the first time ever I considered the possibility that I might secretly have a lyrical nature.* This came as a great surprise since from the very beginning of my 5Rhythms path, Lyrical had always seemed incomprehensible and inaccessible, except in tiny, occasional glimpses. Today, the first day of spring, Jilsarah again taught the Sunday Sweat Your Prayers class; and I was again granted wings, though my lyrical side is, by now, no longer a deeply buried secret.
Every day walking in to work, I take a few moments to gaze at the living sky before stepping inside the dark building. This week, a tidal wave of afflictive material has arisen there, but I have been able to act skillfully inside of it—noting and feeling strong emotions, but somehow (this time) being able to hold them inside of a much larger experience of space.
The event’s producer had written a quote by Gabrielle Roth, the creator of the 5Rhythms practice, on a small dry erase board posted on the check-in table. It said, “Ride the energy of your own unique spirit.” This, at first, struck me as a quote in the spirit of the rhythm of Lyrical, but as I looked more closely, I realized she had written the whole quote in blue, except the one word “spirit,” which was written in green. “Ride the energy of your own unique spirit.” This, for me, moved it over the threshold of Lyrical into lyrical Stillness. These nuances and interstices have fascinated me lately; and I was grateful for this first contemplation of the morning.
Before entering the studio, I chatted with a friend who has been practicing for many years. One thing that came up is that 5Rhythms has the ability to hold absolutely everything. He shared that a 5Rhythms teacher from out of town had once used the hands as the means to enter into Flowing—an unusual choice, as Flowing is usually associated with the feet. I shared that lately I have been noting an emphasis on simplicity, as though it were preferential to complexity. I also shared that in my opinion, the practice holds both equally. Complexity, along with simplicity, seems to exist equally in the vast, dynamic emptiness that gives rise to everything.
One of the first to step into the light-filled room, I made a motion to place my water bottle on the window ledge. As I turned, its weight carried me in a gently extended curve. Instead of putting it down, I took it as my partner, passing it from hand to hand, looping it down, up, around me, in big circles and tiny arcs. I closed my eyes since there were few people on the floor yet; and I didn’t want to know if anyone was watching me in this elaborate web of weighted circles. My spine circled, too, along with every part of me, casting down, raising up, turning and twisting at once. During this dance, the water in the water bottle never sloshed, but instead moved in harmony with the momentum of these layered gestures.
The music changed and I found the floor, stretching and moving in arcing circles with one part of me firmly attached, always, to the floor. The music changed again and I moved with circles and pauses in still Flowing.
Before long, the room started to come to life, and I danced through the studio, looking for empty spaces and allowing myself to be pulled briefly into gestures and energies until I was beckoned by a new open space or a new focal point or a new exchange. During this part of the class, I made a conscious choice to see everyone in the room, sometimes looking at a fellow dancer and repeating the adapted Thich Nhat Hahn phrase, “I see you there; and I am grateful for it.”
Jilsarah moved us gently into Staccato with a classic reggae song; and I immediately stepped into partnership with a woman I have never shared a dance with before. Before long, we settled into the jaunty, uprising rhythm, carried along on it and adding our own cheerful flourishes. A man I like to dance with came and invited me to partnership, but I continued to gaze, smiling, into the eyes of my partner, making space for him, too, but staying with her right through the end of the song. I was grateful for the opportunity to experience this scenario, as I have occasionally felt irritated when I have been sharing a dance with a woman and she has abandoned me the moment an attractive man has come into her field.
Someone who has triggered wildly afflictive emotions in me for many years stepped into the room. I noted the emotions that arose and held it all in the vast, tender space of love, silently welcoming this person and physically moving to embrace her.
A Sweat Your Prayers class is, by definition, minimally instructed, and Jilsarah had the lightest of light touches. The only thing I really remember her saying was something like, “As an individual, in partnership, and with the whole community.” Quoting Gabrielle Roth, the creator of the 5Rhthyms practice, she said, “There is only one of us here.”
Jilsarah did not offer any instructions about whether or not to partner, but I rolled and spun from one partnership to the next, equally receptive to nearly every person. In Lyrical in the first wave, I danced in delighted partnership with a good friend. Another, equally delighted, partnership cropped up beside us. I circled them and we became four. Beaming, bounding, spinning with this small group, I attended to everyone around me also, weaving others into the small group.
I love being in a small, tight-knit group of three or four or five when we are weaving in and out of each other like a matrix; but I am also sensitive to including people. I don’t want anyone to feel left out; and though it is not fully in my control, I try to keep the boundary porous. Even when I am in partnership with just one person, I often connect in a tiny series of gestures with a nearby dancer, then return to the partner I am primarily engaged with.
At several points I looked around the room, taking in an infinite range of beautiful dances and partnerships. Seeing, tears welled up and poured out gently, for just a few gestures, then shifted again.
In the second wave, I found a surprising undercurrent of Stillness in the Staccato part of the wave. Something similar happened to me recently in Chaos, when everything seemed to go into slow motion and get kind of goo-ey. A few moments after I noticed this novel (for me) kind of energy, a friend who I love to dance with stepped into me, remarkably in a very similar field. We moved together in what (for me) was a kind of still Staccato, then into a more full expression of Staccato—a place I love to meet him. Later, he shared that he had noticed from across the room that he and I were in the same kind of energetic space and had come immediately toward me. He must have realized before I did, because it had just entered my consciousness when he appeared—sweeping toward me almost magically.
I was given a teaching that I call “Passing Through Practice” many years ago. When in a very porous and receptive state, it is possible to move gently through everyone who is open to it around me, and to let them move through me. Today, this very tender practice within the practice was available during much of the class.
I found myself rocking at the end of the second wave, and recalled my earliest experiences of perfect love. My father would hold me while he rocked me in a wooden rocking chair and would sing lullabyes in the tenderest voice imaginable. Tears again rolled down my cheeks.
As the music ended, Jilsarah very softly invited us to find a formation that would allow us to acknowledge ourselves as a community. We moved toward a circle, all at different paces. Jilsarah added, “Let’s allow those who are not in the circle to stay in their authentic place.” We held the circle for just a moment, then followed Jilsarah’s gesture when she raised her hands to the sky, shaking them in a happy pulse and smiling, then letting it all go.
March 20, 2016, Brooklyn, NY
This blog consists of my own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms® dancing path, and is not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms® organization or teacher.
*Although most posts to this blog are written for a general audience, this post assumes significant prior knowledge of 5Rhythms practice and language. The five rhythms of 5Rhythms practice are Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness. To talk about a “lyrical nature” is to talk about a nature that has similar qualities to the rhythm of Lyrical—perhaps joyful, light, heartful, participatory and knowing.
The days leading up to the 2016 Word Dance workshop were exceptionally delightful. I went on something of a walkabout with my now-six-year-old son, Simon. He is in a lovely phase at the moment—cooperative, funny, insightful and affectionate—and I thoroughly enjoyed our time together, making a big loop to visit friends from Brooklyn to Tarrytown to Newburgh to Kingston, north to Burlington, Vermont, and then to my parents’ in Northern Connecticut. My parents had agreed to look after Simon Friday afternoon and Saturday while I was at the Word Dance workshop, then bring him back to Brooklyn Saturday night. While I was waiting for my mother to arrive to care for Simon so I could leave, I looked online to see if I had any outstanding parking tickets. I found several, including a “Bus Lane Violation”—something I had never heard of—for 115 dollars. My humor darkened. Simon said lightly, “Well, that’s how it is, Mommy. If you break the rules you have to take the consequences.” I had to admit that he was right, though I continued to feel disempowered and irresponsible.
Because I did not plan properly, there was a mix up about times. I did not set out until 4pm for a journey that typically takes over three hours. In this case, it took four hours. As it was, I did not arrive until 8pm at Paul Taylor Studio on Grand Street in Lower Manhattan, though Friday’s initial session of the Word Dance workshop had begun at 6pm.
In the car, I turned on myself, becoming extreme in my thinking. It started because I was angry with myself for not taking my own needs seriously and for not planning properly; and the trajectory continued to gather steam. Recalling it now, I can’t understand what all that suffering was all about. At the time, though, it just felt like misery.
February 19-21, the dates of the recent NYC Word Dance workshop, had been marked on my calendar for many months. The Word Dance workshop that was held in Brooklyn in 2014 by Jewel Mathieson—poet celebrated and beloved by Gabrielle Roth, the creator of the 5Rhythms practice—was very moving for me. This time, she was joined by Amber Ryan, another teacher who I hold in high regard.
(Note: To read what I wrote about the 2104 Word Dance workshop, visit http://wp.me/p4cEKe-N)
I stepped into the spacious studio long after dark. The room was lit by ropes of white lights tucked into the edges between the walls and floor, and by dimmed, ambient floods. Despite my late arrival, I paused to bow patiently as I stepped into the charged space of the room. The music indicated the rhythm of Stillness, but I found energetic movement, letting myself out of the gate, perhaps, after such a long press toward arrival. I continued to explore a dance that first arose at Paul Taylor studio during a previous workshop—on the floor, radial, turning in all directions with some part of me pinned down, often as my limbs marked a big circle around me. In addition, on my hands and spinning on one knee, I stepped my free foot as far as possible across behind me, taking me into yet another stretching and spinning circle.
The formal moving ended shortly, and we assembled in a semi circle. Arriving late, I still hadn’t entered fully into the construct of the workshop. Jewel performed her signature poem “We Have Come To Be Danced,” a primal, visceral rallying cry to the ragged depths of spirit. Then, a dancer named Nilaya came to the center of the floor to perform while Jewel read a selected poem. Nilaya moved with great energy. Even her facial expressions responded to Jewel’s words; and I admired her abandon. Nilaya was beautiful, undoubtedly, but I couldn’t understand why her dancing was a performance, and the rest of us dancing was just…well…dancing. Is she a “better” dancer than me? Than the others in attendance? Is she some kind of professional? If 5Rhythms isn’t about being a “good” dancer, then how could I make sense of this?
Soon, we were also invited to select one of Jewel’s poems from a bowl, then to move to it as Jewel read. For the last piece, having to do with Jewel’s experience of motherhood, Jewel invited all of the mothers in attendance to join Amber, who had selected the poem. I hesitated, perhaps wanting to remain in doubt, but let go of my questions and stepped forward, along with several others, moving quickly into Chaos. At the end, Jewel explained that she had had a dream of Nilaya “flying” to her words; and I let my questions dissolve. Sometimes I just have to respect the logic of dreams.
The session ended. Over the course of the weekend, I found myself wishing, again and again, that we had much more time. For example, in this case, I would have loved to dance a short wave to take in all I had witnessed and to let it out again.
I greeted Jewel and apologized profusely for arriving late. She generously complimented my work on this very blog. She couldn’t realize how much her kind words meant to me, as I have felt called recently to evaluate what, exactly, my intentions have been with this writing, and what, to the extent that I can know, this writing has meant in the world.
Because Simon was with my parents, I had plenty of time to linger. I offered to drive Jewel and Amber home since both were nearly on the way. Both teachers have given me considerable food for thought in the few years that I have known them—through public teachings, writings and conversation; and I felt blessed to have a few moments with them apart from the larger group.
In a conversation I had that night, I spoke of how much I love opportunities to express what comes up in 5Rhythms work as form—such as poetry, in this case. 5Rythms is so very ephemeral—necessarily so—as it leaves the ego little material to build with. But at the same time, there is so much form available! The person I was speaking with said, “Maybe sometimes it is OK to attach, if briefly, to let it find a form, to say, this is exactly who I am, right in this minute! This is me!” The world of pure energy, of total non-attachment beckons us, but the fact is that most of us are not pure energy. We are not Buddhas. We live mostly in the relative world, of red tape and emotional messes and mundane joys and pyrrhic victories and debt and defensiveness and tiny steps toward love.
As an artist, something I think about a lot is that when we make something external—when we give it a form—we can then respond to it. This now-externalized relationship to something previously only interior can be very fruitful. Creating form, especially in such close proximity to formal practice, runs the risk of ego-aggrandizement, but I wonder if we could see the forms we find as simply part of the spectacular arisings that comprise our humanity—the light show that is our life, the beautiful, dynamic display, arising from the primal everything.
I stayed up late reading and writing, and slept until the decadent hour of 9.30 AM—a rare treat. With plenty of time, I stepped out to get something to prepare for breakfast. Thinking I would light a candle and have a nice, long sit before I left the apartment, I suddenly realized it was 11AM; and that I was in danger of being late again! I collected myself quickly and headed to Paul Taylor Studio, arriving just five minutes before the noon start time.
I was one of the first to arrive on the dance floor, and took full advantage of all the space. First, I explored the perimeter. With my hands behind my head, I experimented with how I had to twist when I moved close to the wall to make space for my elbow. Further along the perimeter, I rubbed against the towering black velvet stage curtains, grounding myself in the pure sensation of the soft fabric on my skin—my exposed cheek and arm.
As others joined the dance floor, the wave carried me on top of it. First, I found the energetic, radial dance of the ground again. Before long, I was sailing around the room, enraptured, with the perfect amount of energy, no physical pain, and no self-abusive thoughts that persisted. I moved into empty space, making a conscious choice to see and feel everyone around me. I said internally, again and again, “I see you there, and I am grateful for it,” an adaptation from a practice taught by the Zen Monk Thich Nhat Hanh that I frequently employ.
People did not seem inclined to meet my eye as I moved around. I remembered that in the last Word Dance, too, it had seemed that people were less inclined to partner than usual. I wondered if this might be, in part, because we were more focused on the words taking shape in our minds than on our interactions. People seemed to keep getting seized by inspiration, then sitting down to write, then returning to dance. We were told to keep our books near the dance floor and that we could write at any time. Jewel also advised us to keep some part of our body in the dance, even when we were writing. At times, I wished for more partnership, but in this construct, dance was more like the warm-up—the deepest intimacy actually came later, in sharing our spoken words with each other.
I noted, as in the past workshop, that I was disinclined to leave the dance to write. You would think I would be thrilled about moving in and out of dance and writing, especially since they are so closely linked for me, but that wasn’t the case. In the Buddhist tradition I am trained in, we are taught to never pause meditation to write. If the words that come up during formal practice are important enough, they will always come back again after. During classes and workshops, I don’t write during the sessions. Often I make skeletal notes about what happened and what associations I had that evening or the next day, but the writing usually takes place 2-9 days after the events I describe.
Jewel and Amber gathered us for verbal teachings. Jewel requested that we offer something lasting “two seconds to two minutes.” She told us how Gabrielle used to have practitioners pick a word, then talk about it in front of the class—relating it to their personal experience—for two minutes. Noting the tenor of anxiety, Amber offered several preliminary practices to get us ready for this kind of sharing. Remarkably, I was nearly un-frightened, and instead felt eager and confident.
Although Jewel created the Word Dance construct and many people attended because they wanted to do the Word Dance work, it seemed that some of the participants had come because they had worked with Amber in the past and wanted to work with her again. Throughout the weekend, Amber endeavored quietly and diligently to support the work taking place in the room, both as the DJ and through selected exercises.
I hadn’t attended to writing at all during the opening wave on Saturday, but it was clear that some had already developed elaborate poems. I think I sort of misunderstood Jewel’s direction. It seemed like she was asking us to share a poem, but didn’t want to put too much pressure on us. Or to pick a word and talk about it? Like in the practice she had talked about with Gabrielle? I decided to work with two words I had randomly opened to in the dictionary, “radical” and “summons”. I was the fourth or fifth person to get up, and said, “My word is summons.” I paused, then said with quavering power, “At what point does the mandate of patience give way to the calling of destiny?”
The notes in my book that I had distilled this phrase from included, “patience balanced with wanting, drenched, moving toward.”
Remarkably, the phrase I offered planted the seed for what I would produce and share over the course of the weekend. This delights me, in retrospect, for some reason. I also notice that in some cases, conversations I’d shared with other practitioners came up in their writings; and I reflected on how very woven together we all are—bound in the fabric of our shared destiny—especially visible to us inside the beautiful construct of this workshop.
Tears swelled in me many times during the morning’s share. They are not mine to offer here and I must be discreet, but know that the stories, words and poems that came up were without exception compelling.
Jewel taught us many practices and writing tips over the course of the weekend. This barely scratches the surface of what she shared, but here is my own attempt to summarize her teachings and create a list of “Jewel’s Rules for Writing:”
- Always have your book available.
- Speak the words you are writing.
- Write from your heart.
- Dance before you write; and keep something moving even when you are writing.
- Find a gesture you can write from.
- Give your breath to whatever emotional field you are in.
(“The more emotion you give it, the more amplitude to carry it out!”)
- Don’t be satisfied with your first draft.
- Leave space on your page to add lines and edit.
- Don’t be afraid to be melodramatic.
- When you think you are lost, you are there.
After Saturday morning’s period of sharing words and receiving teachings, we took a break for lunch. I stayed in the studio, eating the lunch I had with me, then settling into a comfortable corner of the dance floor to write and reflect. A poem began to emerge, but I left it as soon as Amber started the music again, eagerly stepping into joyful movement, once again one of the first people to begin the wave.
Knowing that we would have another opportunity to share work, I complied when the wave concluded and everyone repaired to their chosen spot to write. This time, I wrote feverishly, pressing to get the words out even after we had been called on to begin the share.
Nearly every person stepped up to offer something; and the offerings were even more powerful this time, as themes and context for each person’s writing had by then begun to emerge. The practice of mindful listening is as important, if not more important, than what we offer when we stand up; and I worked hard to meet my responsibility of listening and seeing each person when it was their turn.
The energy and attention of the group grew and grew over the course of the weekend; and I felt a great surge when I stood up to offer my own poem—a notably dark exploration of my psyche and personal history.
(Note: you can read the poem at the end of this text.)
During a brief bathroom break, one practitioner took a moment to tell me that it was a shock to hear me speak. She said we had shared four or five workshops now; and this was the first time she had heard my voice. (That right there was interesting feedback! I can be such a know-it-all! I love to hear myself talk. I love the sound of my voice. Is it possible that something has shifted slightly?) She felt like there was a big difference between my speaking voice and how I seem on the dance floor. I said, “That is fascinating! I will have to contemplate that. Maybe there is some sort of a disjunction? What do you mean? Can you say more about that?” She said, “I don’t know how to say it. I guess I have to think about it a little!”
On Saturday evening I hadn’t lingered, as my parents were arriving with Simon. Because I left so quickly, I did not receive any feedback at all. That night I was unsure about what I had offered. Was it really skillful to take myself into such afflictive territory? Did I really want people who had never met me before to see me this way? Did I want to share this part of me with people who already knew and liked me? On Sunday, though, one woman went out of her way to acknowledge me during the first wave. She held tight to my hand, gazed into my eyes, and said “Goddess.” She thumped her hand over her heart and nodded. I was very moved by her gesture and by her insistence on communicating it. Others were kind enough to express their support over the course of the day. Though part of me understands that others’ approval must not be central to my need for expression, the support felt crucial to my process. Above all, I truly appreciated the non-rejection, even in the face of this ugly aspect of myself.
I danced Sunday morning’s wave with wild abandon. Still wishing for more partnership, I joined whoever might be receptive. I had given some thought to what I would share that afternoon, and had printed poems written during January and February of this year, along with one related poem from nearly twenty years ago. During the wave, I didn’t visit my writing book even once. Jewel explained that we would have one more chance to share something—from two seconds to two minutes of content—and that in this case we would be grouped with four other people, and would take turns enacting ritual theater gestures for each other’s pieces. Because I had attended the previous NYC Word Dance workshop, I was put forward as someone who could help explain the ritual theater work for our group, and I all-too-eagerly stepped into leadership.
I was not ready! I had no idea what to offer. I needed time! We were given the option to meet as a group and plan our skits before lunch, or to have lunch first, then gather with our groups to plan and rehearse. I argued for lunch first, and most of the group agreed and drifted off. One member of our group disagreed strongly. She very much wanted to meet first, then have lunch. I and one other group member offered to re-gather the group and rehearse her piece before breaking for lunch. Reluctantly, the offer was declined.
The woman who told me my voice surprised her paused me in the foyer and elaborated on her previous remark. “It is just like, in dance, you are so ready to hold your space.” She made a strong, closed fist gesture. “But in speaking, you are…well. You are, like, quiet. And thoughtful. It is like a totally different experience.”
On Sunday I had come prepared for long periods of sitting on the floor with a meditation cushion from home; and I posted myself up to review and prepare. I had several different options in mind, but finally settled on two poems—one from the distant past, and a related, new poem. I re-cast both several times, and timed and practiced my delivery for a few moments before internally declaring myself ready.
Our group had planned to work together from 3.00-3.30 in preparation for the presentations, which were to start at 3.30, but we didn’t succeed in gathering until 3.10. It was my idea to meet after lunch (mostly because I wasn’t ready), but I felt nervous when we were so slow to convene. I became staccato, urging us through the first two people’s rehearsals while watching the clock, fearing that I would be the one whose piece was neglected; and, too, fearing that we would all lose this chance to stand in our power and instead be fumbling on the “stage”. The member who wanted to meet before lunch pushed back hard, saying that she didn’t like to be rushed. I backed up but continued to watch the clock. When it was my turn to direct the other four, I recited, explaining the gestures I wanted them to take during key moments in my poems. Then, we moved quickly on to the next person. We were given an extra ten minutes of preparation time, and were able to prepare for each person’s piece. The group encouraged the slightly disgruntled person who had wanted to eat lunch after our rehearsal to set the presentation order, and we declared ourselves ready.
Amber and Jewel asked a few questions about the best way to set up for this final ritual, adjusting lights, music and audience placement. One member of our group who had been in the bathroom asked me where she was in our five-person lineup, and I quietly explained. The group member who had wanted to rehearse before lunch shushed me with an angry expression on her face, “Can you please be quiet so I can hear what she is saying?” I daggered her with my eyes, and allowed my mind to be briefly dragged into anger. Fortunately, the power of the room drew me back quickly, and though the sensation of anger lingered for a few moments, it did not hijack me.
At last, the first group rose and moved in front of the room’s biggest white wall while the rest of us sat at attention facing them. Again, each person’s offering was very moving. The room boomed with powerful words, raw presence, honesty, theatricality and intensity. The first group had practiced extensively and the transitions between each person’s piece were so seamless that it was almost like one integrated performance. I was moved to tears and even to jagged sobs again and again, my heart swelling up. I felt so close to everyone, and so deeply invested in each person’s process.
When it was our group’s turn, I did my best to support my group members and to stand in my own power. When it was my turn to step forward, I again felt the surge of power that comes from pushing myself past my comfort zone, and from stepping up in a room so saturated with presence and creative energy. My voice quivered a little, but I felt very comfortable with the spotlight, moving close to the audience. I said, “These are two poems in the key of Stillness. One written almost twenty years ago, another a recent fragment, with an image that has persisted again and again.”
My group members did not remember some of the gestures I had requested, but—at least from my perspective—it didn’t seem to matter that much. Though I was grateful to them, I was focused on the audience and nervous, so I barely noticed their part of the performance. As I finished and stepped back to support the last two pieces, my heart throbbed in my chest and adrenaline rushed into my legs. Within a minute or less, it passed, and I supported to the best of my ability, trying to remember the indicated gestures and intending to hold space with integrity.
Usually when each person in a big group shares an individual piece, the time begins to drag toward the end; but in this case, when we finished and everyone had presented, I looked around, wondering which group would go next, not realizing that we were already done. I was that captivated by the process and by the products people shared.
We moved very briefly, breaking the biggest rule of 5Rhythms by dancing and speaking at once, elated by the wave of creative work we had lived. Soon, we gathered into a final, seated closing circle. Jewel invited us to offer anything else that lingered. This final share featured few planned products, but many life stories, and many testimonials to the power of the 5Rhythms. Although wonderful friends sat on both sides of me, I didn’t even take in that they were there, as I was feeling totally part of the group, of the field of participation. I had sat down with some crumpled poems in hand, eager to speak my own words again, but realized that what was called for in the moment was a different way of witnessing, of knowing, of speaking. Thanks to the space created by Jewel and Amber, and to the teachings of Gabrielle Roth—who is my Buddha, the woman who opened the doors to everything—I was able to notice and to respond appropriately, gratefully.
“You listen me into speaking.” –Unknown Spectacular Human
This blog consists of my own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms® dancing path, and is not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms® organization or teacher.
The un’s page of the dictionary surprised me.
It seems you can add “un” to just about anything
And come up with a legitimate word:
The mayor’s daughter,
I wanted so much to be bad, abject
(somehow I had tricked myself
into believing that was freedom,
affront to convention)
I piled on trauma
And added more trauma in trying to undo it
Fucking everyone around me
Secretly I craved love
But everything I did moved me
Further and further from it
More and more alcohol
More and more of everything
And soon, I moved in worlds more abject than I’d ever dreamed
Pierced, sharp, fierce,
I enjoyed a short reign as the queen of a small-city drug-addled rave scene,
Dancing more than I slept.
Flawed, damaged, broken
Afraid if I was gigantic it would cause harm.
I contained myself,
To the extent that I could
Patience has been an antidote to my defensiveness,
My flagrant temper, my hot ego, my edges.
Yes, patience has served me.
The beauty of quiet moments seeps in through all the cracks.
My now-dead teacher sought to turn us inside out,
Always asking us to dig deeper.
I have held myself back,
Afraid of me
Afraid that ego’s craving
Would cast me on treacherous rocks
At what point can I just unravel it back to clean
At what point, despite my many flaws,
Does the mandate of patience
Make way for the calling of destiny?
When do I cry out
I want it
I want it
I want it-
I want to be turned inside out
I want to stand in the full light of love
I want to be free
“100 Black Birds” (written sometime between 1997-2001, edited 2016)
Let me not flatten you out
For my own comfort, my love.
If you call yourself a morning person,
Then dance all night
I’ll not consider it defection.
An old pattern twitches in my mind,
Like birds pointed south.
I watch an airplane
As it threads through different layers of opacity
Moving from invisible to ghostly to clearly seen,
Then flickering again.
A hundred black birds
Swoop and arc as one
Their gesture, a huge trick kite.
I once saw their conductor,
A man with a huge swath of fabric
Dancing on the rooftop
A hungry ghost, an aching spector,
Directing the birds’ gestures.
I realize now that I dreamt him.
“Birds on a Foggy Morning” (2016-work in progress)
Leafless trees create a seamless arch over Eastern Parkway.
White fog weights heavily on top of them.
A flock of black birds circles in unison—
They are a group of little black shapes
When their bodies are flat to me,
And when they turn to complete the circle
Become thin black lines
And disappear into the flog,
Then re-appear as shapes,
Again and again.