It was winter. At the purple turn of the world,
the distant cities slept and slurred in the glim
on the sea’s wet skin. It was early evening.
I watched as a bird split the hinge of its wings
and left on the infant winds. Into the starling
darkness; into the black of the atlas;
into the silent miles it moved to the luteous
bruise of the moon. Smooth as a womb.
The room thickened with hours. Glamorous
black. I lay in a dark of my own like that
as a candle coughed to the last. Thought
of the bird on the lavender back of the dusk,
a distant fiction. Far from the quiet vision,
as the fields unreeled at dawn, I remember
the way that the rain had fallen, clear as a tear,
on the pane. Remember – colder still again –
the child that scampered
down the lane
beyond the dark
• ‘It was winter… It was early evening’. The atmosphere of the opening lines is inspired by Hannah Buckley’s performance of The Mountain and Other Tales. I remember the way that a low, soft light covered the stage. There was a sense of stillness and the sound of night winds outside. Smoke filled the room like evening mist. The dancer was a lonely picture amongst the noise and movement, as if the world were passing by as she sat still.
• ‘The distant cities slept and slurred in the glim on the sea’s wet skin’. This is a reference to the blue planet and ocean which set the scene in Zsuzsa Rozsavolgyi’s performance of 1.7.
• ‘A bird split the hinge of its wings’. Birds appeared in a few dances during the festival. Birdsong could be heard in The Mountain and Other Tales; the words ‘birdy singing’ were repeated in the background of 1.7; and Lizzie Klotz danced to The Carpenters’ ‘Close To You’ (‘why do birds suddenly appear?’) in her performance of Fawn.
• ‘The infant winds’. There were winds in Hannah Buckley’s dance, too.
• ‘Luteous bruise of the moon’. The image of the moon, large and swollen in the sky, is taken from Lizzie Klotz’s performance of Fawn. A moon appeared surrounded by darkness. A dancer, mimicking the movements of a juvenile fawn, began to move beneath it.
• ‘Smooth as a womb. The room thickened with hours’. A link to Zsuzsa’s focus on pregnancy in 1.7.
• ‘Glamorous black’. Part of Zsuzsa’s monologue dealt with the way that women are generally expected to take an interest in fashion and image. I thought that this would be a particularly apt way to describe the darkness, given its association with style. By extension, I think of Old Hollywood icons like Audrey Hepburn in her little black dress. Here’s an interesting fact I’ve since discovered: the slogan of the #MeToo movement was once ‘Black Glamour’.
• ‘I lay in a dark of my own like that’. Strangely, every dance during the festival was performed in darkness (or with very minimal light). Though I wondered at the time, I never asked whether there was a message behind it.
• ‘A distant fiction’. I’ve become quite interested in this self-reflective style of writing lately. I’ve ascribed a fiction to the bird, seeing a lost freedom in it. But in doing so I’ve also written my own piece of fiction (the poem). I suppose dancers do the same when they choreograph a dance.
• ‘The child that scampered down the lane beyond the dark and rain’. I wanted to end with the image of a child, primarily because each dance looked at youth in one way or another. I like the nod towards a rite of passage, too. Although it’s rare I use a structure like this, I find it satisfying to read in this instance.
Commissioned by Yorkshire Dance as a response to the Encounters Festival, celebrating women in dance, Leeds, March 2019