Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Ninth Dance of Christmas: A Benediction, Forbidding Allegory

[Print of "Ladies Dancing,"  by Delilah, 2009,
available at]

The Ninth Dance of Christmas: 
A Benediction, Forbidding Allegory

Under the order of creation,
and in honor of the holy incarnation,
and by the power vested in pilgrim poets,
I hereby forbid all allegorizing of the ninth day of Christmas
and the lovely ladies dancing their triple-time bourrée.

Leave all twelve days alone, for that matter,
for the sweet God's sake,
who shunned not skin, they say, for ours.

For skin's sake, now forever sanctified,
let the mother's breasts be beautiful with milk,
let the baby boy's penis be unswaddled,
let the sheep shit,
and let the angels envy the whole blessed material mess.

No, these nine ladies are hair and blood and bone not spirit,
despite their sprightly dance.
And they don't need to mean the nine fruit of the Holy One
to justify their loveliness.
Besides, only nine gifts? 

Animal husbandry surely must be on the real list.
And dancing. 

Off his cuff, St. Paul listed a few and the church fixated.
What else is new?

And so my ladies--including you, 

my beautiful unforgettable Theresa from Mrs. Ray's dance class  back in the sixth grade,
when my parents were trying to make sure I'd grow in grace--
break those terrible chains of symbol,
let your legs be light and lovely,
like your sister the doe,
let your straining haunches show your likeness
to your mother, the mare.

I've read enough lists of "spiritual disciplines" to see that they're silly.
If solitude is on the list and dancing is not,
spend some time in the psalter, my too too ghostly friends.
If you don't dance, get a new spiritual director.

For example, that night, that hot liminal July in Leeds, Astrid and I must have lost ten pounds between us.
We shone and glistened and moved like . . . no, not angels,
like lovely beasts made of dust and bone and mystery's warm breath.
It meant something, yes, 

precisely this--
Skin and motion and sound and glorious musculature and the
mysterious suitability of human feet for such a balance
of abandon and pattern and joy. 

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