— Barbara Saxton
Clothed in little but tattoos, dusky faint
beneath white powder, like continents
viewed from above through swirls of cloud,
wrapped in penitent’s brown burlap,
beige codpiece held in place by braided rope,
the butoh figure crouched — feline, intent —
just listening and preening, while bowed gongs,
twirling teacups on taut drum skins, sonorous bells
called him to dance.
His restless, hairless body, double-dusted
in white paint and powder, one scarlet smudge
of paint over his open mouth, slowly stood upright.
Lines drawn around his eyes grew darker
as the orbs themselves rolled back. Wide holes
where earlobes used to be formed question marks
on either side of his bald head.
Would merely watching him
provide much-needed answers?
Eyes beg him to dance closer, while lips
warn mutely: Keep your distance.
He is the dead and living, or something in between,
defined by music’s power to transform.
Everyone who loved and left us has returned
in this seductive, writhing package.
We’re safest when he’s seated on the floor,
pale legs akimbo, arms and fingers wrapped
around his head, trapping love and terror in,
reflecting nothing back at us.
Eventually, the so-called music stops.
Our dancer leaves. Outside the hushed room,
a door latch quietly clicks shut.