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“At Henry’s bier...”



At Henry’s bier let some thing fall out well:
enter there none who somewhat has to sell,
the music ancient & gradual,
the voices solemn but the grief subdued,
no hairy jokes but everybody’s mood
subdued, subdued,
until the Dancer comes, in a short short dress
hair black & long & loose, dark dark glasses,
uptilted face,
pallor & strangeness, the music changes
to “Give!” & “Ow!” an how! the music changes,
she kicks a backward limb
on tiptoe, pirouettes, & she is free
to the knocking music, sails, dips, & suddenly
returns to the terrible gay
occasion hopeless & mad, she weaves, it’s hell,
she flings to her head a leg, bobs, all is well,
she dances Henry away.

John Berryman

Dance Poetry
A comprehensive anthology
Edited by Alkis Raftis
Copyright 2012