Late Afternoon, Following Women in Trance to the TempleI am a drunken bird hovering behind spirit-inebriated dancers colliding with one another as they reach the palm-fringed courtyard. There, the sacred gamelan is undressed and the first song is played while everyone hides their eyes. After the sound has purified the crowd, the priests take their places under the thatch behind big bowls of fruit and bright pink rice-dough effigies. The musicians spiritedly sound their gongs, drums and metal keyboards, playing off the trance dancers' unpredictable moves. Royal blues collapse into beaming golds, chartreuse hills send steamy wisps into the palms. Young rejang dancers fall into queues on the sidelines, lifting see- thru sashes to the rising moon, eyes rolling out of their faces, sarongs untying, mind unthreading (a slug or two of arak helps). A man spins from his female counterpart like a disengaged spoke, aiming a smoking sword toward his breast--but it stops in the skin without piercing. How?
Coconut palms flutter over gilded tiaras, purple-headed lotus buds rise erect from the marsh. A stranger's lips smile, break open with teeth. Clamor of suns multiply as my tongue begins to speak several tongues. I see a half-nude man madly turn, bring destiny to his chest, hear the great wheel creak, listen to ants fall from dusty bromeliads, hear backbones snap, taste incendiary perspiration, rise with a communal high while fire consumes the daylit stars and the sun lights with night. Another day ends! Holy metal, heavy metal, brilliant metal. Pure trance. Gongs sounding from the tent of the sleeping flower. Alphabet of the primitive. Mudra-flutter of branch and leaf. Dancers replicating it with practiced fingers and eyes. One in particular seems to be calling me. She moves like a fish swimming from a sacred spring, a tree rising inside the flesh--
Her legs are the split doorway
-Tenganan, Bali '97
Issue #3, September, 1998 :
Santa Fe Poetry Broadside.