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Folk dance at Shinto shrine

The summer night, diluted black, pours itself diffuse
Beneath the giant trees in the lantern grove
Behind the Shinto shrine. An old victrola
Is cranked and screeches softly without echo
From the darkness. Short sliding steps of children
Shake the pavilion's bamboo stilts
In time, advancing and retreating, shimmering
The silk of outstretched arms in pink and red
Kimonos, like a firelit circle of flamingos reflected
Upsidedown in a rippling pond.
The motions hold the slender limbs in thrall, all
The awkwardly lovely tentative motions
Of children, unaccustomed to a stage. Soon they happily
Forget themselves in the confidence of adolescents
Who join the dance, and then they shouting
Pull down in little hands the joy of night
Into the bottom of the shimmering bowl that craters
High around them, closing in when the tall gowned
Figures of their parents form the outmost ring.
The priests in dark kimonos and black lacquered
Clogs look on and nod shaved heads, approving. One
Fans himself with an ivory fan and comments,
Wistfully, upon the gestures of the little children.

Murray Noss


Dance Poetry
A comprehensive anthology
Edited by Alkis Raftis
Copyright 2012