Archive for Sunday, September 16, 2001

Joan Stone

September 16, 2001


This poem was written by Kansas University dance professor Joan Stone following her husband's death:

it is autumn
the time of the mountain
which was so hard to get across
even when we went
the two of us together
how will you manage to cross alone?
the seventh century Chinese poet asks
I am crossing
at first in shock
then in tears
now with eyes open
crossing sideways
pulled toward life
and pulled toward death
or is there death in both directions?
forward steps
backward steps
oblique steps
open steps
crossing steps
Thelma Thelma
I hear you calling
I am struggling
two steps forward
one step back
searching seeking
two steps forward
one step back
I am crossing

Additional Stone poems:

on my way to the old stone schoolhouse that you were restoring
I drive past pumpkins stacked in front of the market
past sumac and sunflowers, trees and bushes, turning colors
it is autumn, the season of leaves
the color of your eyes come into my mind and seep through my body
and the usual emptiness fills with pleasure
and the pleasure continues and grows as I call up the colors one by one
brown of chestnuts
green of olives
red of wine
gold of paintings by Duccio and Martini
I am transported by color to Italy, Tuscany, Siena
orange of terracotta, the huge pots you wanted to bring home
too heavy, I said
and you laughed
your inimitable, irresistible, irrepressible laugh
that filled the air wherever you were
field and schoolhouse, living room and dining table,
where it added to the pleasure of candles, food, and wine
and started the juices that flowed into dancing
that was the source of your laugh, love
you laughed, we danced, drawing closer and closer
hands arms heads bodies legs entwined
if only the dance of love could go on
but it stopped in mid-step
you took your leave
with reluctance and grace
and a promise to return as a leaf
so I drive and walk and dance alone
searching the leaves
and finding the colors of your eyes and memories
I drive past the field of tallgrass gold green orange red brown
where I scattered your ashes one bright autumn day
I arrive at the schoolhouse, which looks like an outpost of ancient Rome
as you worked on the stones, you discovered the kinship of wall builders
and transferred your love for the stones of Italy to the stones of Kansas

I cross the threshold you crossed
walk along the walls where you worked
look out the window as you would have looked
touch the stone that you touched
dance in your footsteps around the floor
Joan Stone

A mourner's dance from Valencia that used to be performed at the death of a child in religious celebration of the passing of a pure soul into heaven.

They enter two at a time
in couples
but each man and woman is alone
they walk slowly
feeling the ground
the women are in black shawls
bound in their grief
the men keep their arms close to their bodies
the gaze is down
the couples cluster like people in a room after a funeral
along the back wall
with one couple more forward
are they the parents of the dead child?
there is music playing
but the dance is silent

the couples drift apart imperceptibly
the men seek each other out
and so do the women
the men begin a rhythmic pattern in the feet
they surge forward and back
making half-wheels
broken circles
with their arms
as one arm rises, the other falls
they have castanets in their hands
but the castanets are silent

the women have begun moving
not dancing
until they take off their shawls
then feet come to life
the gaze leaves the ground
and the castanets begin
the men dance
forward and back
forward and back
the pattern of fields and crops
their arms pulse
up and down
up and down
the pattern of growing and dying
they charge through the line of women
who twist and turn and change places
dancing from side to side
remembering the birth
mourning the death
of the child

a circle forms imperceptibly
men and women join together
the dance intensifies
faster foot rhythms
bigger arm and leg gestures
more insistent clacking of the castanets
a wrenching, whirling dance of death
around and around
an inner circle and an outer circle
death has brought people together
the community has taken on the burden of grief
now the pure soul of the dead child can pass into heaven
bodies, gaze, arms lift to the sky!
Joan Stone

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