seventeen waltzes

for sherm

i. (the perfume)
the perfume of the music purifies
the ballroom air. she takes his proffered hand;
and in the glowing dance ensuing, eyes

are locked upon them. seated people stand
to get a better look. the buzzing tone
of strings pulsating and the fairly grand

character of the dance are left alone.
she knows their steps are sacred and the light
they make immortal. he, too, knows they shone:

within their crystal waltz they set alight
a fire blazing cold as arctic ice.
they are the dance. her breath, like his, so white. 

ii. (three seasons)
there comes a time in which a flower dies.
within each autumn, when the leaves decide
their deaths will feed the tree anew – a price

never too large – their willing suicide
in red and gold of fire burns. their fall
an autumn of the self, as if trees cried

their bloods into the ground to flower more,
again, another year apart. but he,
in love, denies the year; and evermore

for him the year’s four seasons will be three,
because the winter, with his sadness, lies
in the grave. always, his happiness will be… 

iii. (so he believes)
so he believes. the music blooms beneath
the silent sleep of night, a nervous young
thing shivering, shining in the moonbeams’ wreath,

a melody in waiting, to be sung;
and pair by pair the feet that fly upon
the lilting, triple rhythms will be hung

in frames, as frozen moments, pictures torn
between the keeping of those precious times
and life that brims into the too-forlorn

maps dance steps are. and buried in the rhymes
of a steady beat: the words the wind will breathe
into the ring of a girl’s light-hearted chimes.

iv. (a flutter)
there is a flutter in her heart: she feels
the first soft pulsings of a strange recall
that thrums through her and sweetly fills

her every bone with doubt. her musings fall
like snow upon her mind, spreading a calm
upon her actions. quietly she pours

a cup of tea, and in its soothing balm
she sinks, her heart yet floating on the air
through which a shiver trips along her arm,

pausing her thoughts. and as she ties her hair
her spirits are set free, over the fields
and forests and the great wide everywhere.

v. (the flower)
the flower hides her shy visage: the sun,
too bright for her, has singed her with his rays,
and now she droops her head, no longer one

so bold to catch his heart within her face;
he searches still for her, scouring the land
throughout the day while trees and grasses laze.

she wants to feel again the waters wend
throughout her veins without his heated glow
so strangely pulling up her heart’s consent:

instead of wanting water she did grow
to thirst for him – but now she keeps her wants
buried beneath her roots, deep down below.

vi. (the ship)
the ship sets sail. it seeks out lands anew,
the way a breeze disturbs a leafless tree,
and swaying on the waves it bids adieu

to a homeland, as the wind rebelling free
from fetters laid in stiller air. and just
as winds are free to scour the earth, the quay

does naught to tame the ship. the slightest gust
would be excuse enough to sail, and for
the lightest breath the wind takes forth, as must

the ephemeral; and the soft encore
of breaking surf upon the sands are true
in always yearning, ceaseless, ever more.

vii. (tastes)
naïvely bitter in the breath of morn
the trees sway slowly in the wind. the blue
spreads slowly, eating at the black, the dawn

encroaching on the sourness of true
delight hiding in wait for sunrise; hear
the earth’s appeal for wings – once, when it flew

through heavens scattered with the gods’ own tears,
the salty streams through which still flow the seeds
of now: and now, as rooted as the fears

from which it grew, the world’s deep river bleeds
a sweetly tingling wine in which is born
the insane love to satisfy our needs.

viii. (he laughs)
he laughs, and thus the world turns green: the blooms
regain their sprightliness and breathe the scent
like gods that watch their many weaving looms,

the warp and weft of which, in weaving, bent
around the infinite, and it was bound:
he laughs, and thus the world turns green: the scant

tempestuous grace that greets the time unwound
throws shadows through the years: and when the world
divides, cementing life and like, around

the steep: delicacy that slowly twirled
the laughter in the green of him has rooms
to spare for flowering scarcities unfurled

ix. (the path of spring)
unfolding is the path of spring, a song
laid gently at a maiden’s feet to hold
her in her stride, and (fancy) she along

with time in passing (by a breeze so bold
remaking) then begins her daily rites,
in earnest spreading warmth into the cold

(and slightly damp from winter) fireflights
so coyly peeking out (a pretty thing)
among the flowers that decorate her sights

and there is harmony within the ring
of fairy stools (not so un)like the throng
who dance (unfolding) in the path of spring

x. (reminiscence)
look: in the slowly turning, steady-beat
reflection of a time long past, one may
realise a thing or two, as if the heat

those dances held would seep into – and stay
within – the mysteries of the heart; a style
of calm and passion, yearning to betray

the pulsing blood within the little while
these hands are fused into a fist and held
so tightly in each other – like the smile

she secretly allows herself. compelled
to move, the music binds him – and their feet
retrace with care an age long since dispelled.

xi. (they dance)
they dance with grace; they dance with fire. they hold
each other cautiously and then they fly
while holding on with all they can. the cold

of midnight wind bestirs the couple. by
and by they warm up to each other’s step;
the world is trying hard to fade, its why

and how and what all answered by the trap
laid slyly by the dancing. three by three
they lilt in circles, drawing on the map

that once before was black. curiosity
and a burning waltz beckon them: it is told
they dance with time; they dance eternally.

xii. (a hand)
a hand slowly unfolds, revealing deep-
set crevices; a fist evaporates,
and through the parting fingers seeps

a nascent thought, a palmistry too late
to shade the eggshell of the breaking hand.
a bud slowly unfurls, in yearning state

another hand too slow to comprehend
the way a flower sparkling is; resigned,
it blooms a shy repentant rose, the strand

of green towards its roots a string to wind
the perfume of its core into a grip
on minds, as how a soft hand leads the blind.

xiii. (the flood)
he feels a flood of words impending: so
he runs toward the nearest desk, perhaps
to get a piece of paper, a ready flow

of ink beside the quill. as thunder claps
so does he set a torrent flurrying through
the vowels and consonants in collapse;

it seems the wind is meant to misconstrue
his inspiration – papers fly just when
all meaning hits, and he is left to rue

the words escaping from his waiting pen.
the waters, killing, wash his way, although
they spare a million other willing men.

xiv. (a jealous moon)
this is despair: a waning dance throughout
a night whose moon gleams cold. the windowpane
allows a greenly-tinted light. without

the melodies the dance is static, lain
over the floor like plants that never grow.
but there will always be a pair in pain

and there is hope: they never want to slow
or stop, and dance they will, for music is
no complement to her as him; below

their hearts their bodies twine in courtship’s bliss,
so sweetened by a jealous moon. the cloud
which hides the light has made her truly his.

xv. (the candle-sun)
they have the sun caressing them: do close
the window. now the light is trapped within,
be careful; shape it neatly in a rose

and place it on a candle wick. and in
its burning feel its worth; now in the night
the darkness stays outside, unseen,

invisible in waiting. and the light
swaying so brightly on the candle-wick
beckons to them, stretching and lazing tight

against each other. this is no magic trick:
the windows must be closed; if moonshine knows,
the sun escapes. for now it dances on the stick.

xvi. (a time for tears)
there will be time for tears: and so she weeps,
the sadness like a spring flood in her eyes
whose glacial flows melt slowly on her lips;

in summer as the sunlight gladly flies
above her, she is stung, reminded of
a happier time when days were free of sighs

and nights would pass, the way an autumn cough
would make the leaves turn frail, and twirl
into her dreams where time slowly dissolved…

but now her heart is cold; the cruel unfurl
of winter holds her tight, and sadness keeps
her crystallised into a mournful pearl.

xvii. (the fire (finale))
their dancing spreads like fire throughout the night
and makes the stars shine brighter. watch their turns
and twirls over the land, while holding tight

onto each other – as a candle burns
to die, evaporating in its flame,
they give up everything they have: their yearns,

their wishes. in the blaze they are the same –
two people still – and they are different, one
in self and time. and as the world grows tame

they are the wild: they are the two who want
the heavens live in them and make them bright,
their dance as blinding to the eye as the sun.

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3 thoughts on “seventeen waltzes

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