How to dance with death

Buy a skull on a five-foot pole.
Glue negatives in the eye sockets.
Tie a cascade of film to its throat.
Crown it with bone beads.
Safety pin your mother’s hospital band
To the brown net atop a golden hem
adorned with blue beads, red bangles,
and green feathers.

Then wait.

When the time comes jump up.
Implore a death dancer
to join the improvised ritual.
Plant the skull-stick between you.
Take a deep breath.
Shake, moan, and bow.
Upturn the staff.
Turn death on its head
As a newborn unborn
Birthed by a drone
Transform it into a divining rod,
a navigational gyroscope.
The life force presses out on one axis
The death force presses in on another
Complex torques spin their cycles.

Dance to disambiguate death.
Materialize it’s finality.
Find a truer balance.
Trust the hole in the heart.
Do this delicate dance
Slow down.
Let it teach, tame,
tremble, humble you.
This is how to stay wild.



*A gyroscope is a device for measuring or maintaining orientation, based on the principles of angular momentum.[1] In essence, a mechanical gyroscope is a spinning wheel or disk whose axle is free to take any orientation….its orientation remains nearly fixed, regardless of any motion of the platform on which it is mounted.

4 Responses to “How to dance with death”

  1. This piece took my breathe away. Thank you, Cynthia.

    • cynthia winton-henry June 5, 2012 at 6:57 am Reply

      Hi Rick. Took my breath away too. It is a reflection on a dance I did with Trish at the InterPlay Convergence. I really stepped into a conscious trance. I know you would understand on many levels.

  2. I love the waiting part–until the time comes to jump up and dance w/ it all. Paradoxically, as hard as it is for me to practice patience, waiting, watching and listening, it’s one of the things I do best, because it so feeds my soul.
    Thank you, Cynthia for this beautiful poem. Lila

  3. Reliving being entranced and taught by the Dane with death. Thank you for the beauty and power of the dance in body and poetry.


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