broken girl (Firebird)

see the broken, broken girl
her dark eyes dead, her mind awhirl
see her stand upon a line
‘tween what is real and what is fine
 
the earth will hold us strong as steel
once we have danced a final reel
water caresses then lets us go
fleeing fast, whispering woe
but fire – fire! is what you need
you broken girl, you dark-eyed queen
smile and court the dead of night
you are alive! and you are light!
 
it’s dark, but broken girl walks alone
eyes cast down, heart set in stone
when suddenly she finds her feet
drawn by music down the street
 
the earth spits out its melody
that shakes us without sympathy
and water’s melancholy tune
changes at command of moon
but fire moves within you now
my broken girl of furrowed brow
an ember stirs within your soul
as you walk toward an uncertain goal
 
broken girl comes upon a stage
she’s choked with doubt beyond her age
the people dance – their shadows sway
the hungry music turns her way
 
the earth demands to lead the dance
and punishes our impudence
water won’t be held at all
we’re left glass droplets at the ball
but fire moves within their hips
touch, and burn your fingertips
my broken girl is set aflame
though no one here recalls her name
 
burning girl moves through the crowd
swept by rhythms far too loud
she wonders why no one took the chance
to help her lose herself in dance
 
the earth cares only for the beat
stepping forward to retreat
and still the water cries, lonely,
“won’t anybody dance with me?”
but fire consumes you through and through
your heart of stone cracks clean in two
but what was broken is welded now
and the ashen soil will better plow
 
burning girl can hear her heart
beneath the drums a stage apart
and the light that is the singer’s voice
shows her that she has a choice
 
the earth will hold us strong as steel
once we have danced a final reel
water caresses then lets us go
fleeing fast, whispering woe
but firebird rises through the air
the dancing people stop and stare
she moves with grace of love-lit flame
to a joyful song that needs no name.

***

I’ve written very few actual poems that I’m fond of, but this is definitely one of them. At the Welcome Weekend for incoming freshmen, my friend Holly led me and a reluctant Tien to a stage where there was a band playing. We danced there until the music stopped. I felt this incredible sense of freedom – so this was what it’s like to be on my own! No one to laugh at my dancing, just me, my soon-to-be classmates, and the beat. The feeling was so strong that when I went home for Thanksgiving a few months later I could still recall the lightness in my bones and the insistent sound in my ears. It was so strong that I had no choice but to commit it to paper. And there it was! Not the whole feeling, but enough to keep the memory safe.

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