Helen of Troy Does Counter Dancing

September 15, 2006

 

 

 

Helen ofTroy Does Counter Dancing

The world is full of women

who’d tell me I should be ashamed of myself

if they had the chance. Quit dancing.

Get some self-respect

and a day job.

Right. And minimum wage,

and varicose veins, just standing

in one place for eight hours

behind a glass counter

bundled up to the neck instead of

naked as a meat sandwich.

Selling gloves, or something.

Instead of what I do sell.

You have to have talent

to peddle a thing so nebulous

and without material form.

Exploited, they’d say, but I’ve a choice

of how, and I’ll take the money.

I do give value.

Like preachers, I sell vision, like perfume ads, desire

or its facsimile. Like jokes

or war, it’s all in the timing.

I sell men back their worst suspicions:

that everything’s for sale,

and piecemeal. They gaze at me and see

a chain-saw murder just before it happens,

when thigh, ass, inkblot, crevice, tit, and nipple

are still connected.

Such hatred leaps in them,

My beery worshippers! That, or bleary

hopeless love. Seeing the rows of heads

and upturned eyes, imploring

but ready to snap at my ankles,

I understand floods and earthquakes, and the urge

to step on ants. I keep the beat,

and dance for them because

they can’t. The music smells like foxes,

crisp as heated metal

searing the nostrils

or humid as August, hazy and languorous

as a looted city the day after,

when all the rape’s been done

already, and the killing,

and the survivors wander around

looking for garbage

to eat, and there’s only bleak exhaustion.

Speaking of which, it’s the smiling

tires me out the most.

This, and the pretence

that I can’t hear them.

And I can’t, because I’m after all

a foreigner to them.

The speech here is all warty gutturals,

obvious as a slab of ham,

but I come from the province of the gods

where meanings are lilting and oblique,

I don’t let on to everyone,

but lean close, and I’ll whisper:

My mother was raped by a holy swan.

You believe that? You can take me out to dinner.

That’s what we tell all the husbands.

There sure are a lot of dangerous birds around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not that anyone here

but you would understand.

The rest of them would like to watch me

and feel nothing. Reduce me to components

as in a clock factory or abattoir.

Crush out the mystery.

Wall me up alive

in my own body.

They’d like to see through me,

but nothing is more opaque

than absolute transparency.

Look-my feet don’t hit the marble!

Like breath or a balloon, I’m rising

I hover six inches in the air

in my blazing swan-egg of light.

You think I’m not a goddess?

Try me.

This is a torch song.

Touch me and you’ll burn.

 

 

 

 

 

Poet: Margaret Atwood
From: morning in the burned house

 

 

Photographer: John Running

Home Page:John Running

 

 

Photographer: David J Nightingale

Title: Studying Shadow

Home Page: Chromasia

 

 

Photographer: Sandra Bisschoff

From: Photogalaxy

Title: African Sunset

 

 

 

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