I came to know Wendell Berry at the wrong time in my life. My husband and I, with three children in tow, had just barely ... Read More
I had not meant to think on dancers
No, nor womanhood
I meant to write of summer,
Goodness, and the love of God.
But then I saw you step out on the stage,
The lights all trained upon your face
Stumbling feet and legs too long
A glance into the darkness,
Seeking guidance from a song.
It wasn’t your uncertainty that made me weep
I sat in shadow, gazing up,
And what I saw was glory,
Thinly veiled in tulle and satin
Saw a shy conviction, such delight
In roses? Sequins? No.
What you delighted in was you
That here, upon this stage,
We’d catch a glimpse of what you knew
You small, immortal queen
I wept still more for your uncomprehending
Innocence. That you should not yet know
What kind of world you’ve entered in
You cannot know your danger. Oh!
The light around you, thin as spider’s web,
So fine I hardly dared to breathe,
Some hand will swat the veil aside
And barge right in
Or slowly snip the mooring threads
Until a breath of wind
Blows it away.
I cannot bear to see.
You spin on tiny feet, your arms uplifted,
Toss a grin into the crowd,
Take your skirts in hand and flee.
The lights go out.
I am inclined to stand and follow,
For who better knows the path ahead?
I’ve stared down countless dragons
Before curling in my bed to cry
Have felt the violence, the gouge of hungry eyes
I’ve watched in silence, waiting for my turn to speak
While years dragged by.
It never came.
And I have gathered up the fragments
Of my beauty,
Reapplied the tattered bits with paste, in haste
I’ve laid them down, washed myself clean
I’ve beaten giants
Quiet as a lamb, and no one noticed.
Just as quiet I can slip in between you and hell
And stand my ground
I know what’s waiting for you, girl
Yet it could be that while I watch you dance
You’re looking down at me,
Wondering what it means to be
Maybe you’d like to see my battle scars,
Know how it feels to come through fire and flood
For this is womanhood, this strength,
This towering refusal
To lie down and die
Sit down and hush
We stand and fight
We are the champions of the light
Inside your eyes.
That breathless glimmer
Only lasts an hour;
What rises from the embers
Is a fierce and lovely power.
My great desire
Is that you’d know you are encircled,
Sheltered, lifted up by love.
You, too, will triumph,
Face of God.
You, too, will rise above.
So smile your biggest smile.
I see your glory, too.
Out here, beyond the footlights
In the dark
A warrior fights for you.