Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

For a Young Dancer on St. Patrick's Day

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

For a Young Dancer on St. Patrick's Day

Article excerpt

At six, her stance is

Like a professional's- she waits her cue

Intensely and with no expression,

The youngest in the troupe of girls

Costumed alike in skirts that flare like bells

Embroidered with designs

Abstracted tangled animals and geometric vines

Drawn from the Book of Kells,

Hair done up in headdresses of artificial curls

To bounce in time to lively Irish dances,

But it's the music of a Shaker hymn

When she takes her place

Alone on the plywood stage, candescent with such fierce

And concentrated joy

As no smile will pierce

And no trivial laughter can alloy,

Each swift and nimble limb

Inhabiting its quickness without haste,

As if she had only herself to please.

All gazes

Fix on her, not because,

Or not only because, she is a lovely, solemn elf,

Not that her eyes

Are just the shade of blue

Patterned on antique Delft

Or that cliché of cloudless skies

(Though bored through with the blackness of unfathomable Space),

And it is not her fearsome self-possession

Around her, tightly furled,

Rather the possession of her self

By a vaster power

Whose presence in this low room till this hour

Had been unknown to us

And momently amazes,

As the wide wind that breathes upon the world

Enlists the tossing of high-masted trees,

The bowing of the grass,

The shiver of a roadside flower,

So we may see it pass. …

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