On the sands, beside the ocean,
I did the dancer meet,
As the waves were drum-rolls sounding
And the wind was fluting sweet.
She danced of the creation,
Of the genesis, of sex –
She was god and man and woman,
She was nature – nothing less.
From the sweat, her face was shining,
Though the breeze was blowing cool,
With the surf behind her roaring
As she danced before this fool.
I was spellbound by her dancing –
That was sensual and divine.
I stood and watched her postures
And the play of gestures fine.
With her feet, she stomped a rhythm –
Primordial, heartbeat, lust –
And her torso swayed to lilting –
That of sky that calls to dust.
She was thunder, she was lightning,
She was wind, torrential rain,
She was each of all the seasons,
She was pleasure, she was pain.
She was joy and she was sorrow,
She was laughter, she was grief.
And my heart, by her, was stolen –
By this dancer, like a thief.
So the gods may ask allegiance
That the strongest can’t resist;
So the musk may rouse the senses
And on mating, then insist…
But the dance then rose in tempo,
As coitus too may do,
And it reached, in time, a climax,
With my heart convulsing too.
And then, as she was flowing
And was swaying, I was freed
And I floated, by that seaside,
Like a wave-tossed broken reed.
I think I fell unconscious
And I lay there for a time.
When I woke, there was no dancer –
So I've danced her back in rhyme.
But if you find her dancing –
By an ocean, on a beach,
Beware – for those who watch her
Will be captured by her, each…
Let my rhymes be then sufficient
For the ones, who’re weak of heart –
Though they be a pale reflection
Of the wonder of her art.
Her face was flushed – her beauty
Was like the morning mist,
Her lips were slightly parted –
Her face, by moisture kissed.
Her hips were circling slowly,
Her arms were waving high,
Her hands were weaving stories,
And her eyes were darting sly.
Was she air or was she ether?
For she leaped in wondrous arcs
And she landed like a feather,
Yet the sand flew out like sparks.
She was sparkling, like a fountain,
She was flowing, like a stream.
Was she a woman – or a goddess?
Was she real – or a dream?
I do not know the answers,
But that dancer, I can see –
For I’d seen, myself, her dancing,
By the breakers, by the sea…
There are things we can imagine.
There are others, that we can't –
That are spoken of in whispers –
Or in hymns the faithful chant.
I have witnessed such a wonder –
As I've seen, myself, my hand.
But whence and how and wherefore,
I do not understand.
2015 January 18th, Sun. Brooklyn, New York Please see: The Dances of the Golden Hall, by Ashoke Chatterjee (text) and Sunil Janah (photographs), ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations), New Delhi, 1979. This book, designed by Zehra Tyabji and printed at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, has a short Introduction by Indira Gandhi and a Foreword by the violinist Yehudi Menuhin.