by Martha Ronk

Nefés, a Turkish word for breath by Pina Baush
A dancer dragging her arms across the stage, slapping feet through a watery pool
            panting from a bent body,
slamming a body not one’s own yet one’s own against a wall,
            eyes cast into blankness, walled off in a swirling
                      the heave of chest and breath palpable,
you can almost hear it, feel it stretch the sides of the chest, strain the lungs
and again she slams herself into the wall and falls to the floor
            heaped into a pile of skin and pale slip—
you aren’t doing anything except not breathing,
            as unnatural a pose as the way she lifted an awkward heel from the floor
lowered it slowly down in limbs not your own,
everything moving faster than air, that space inside the skull that isn’t a space,
            but placed you beyond legs, arms, walls wherever anyone was—
not thinking of it just being it as she does over and over
            that arm overhead, elbow out, down against the cheek, lift of knee,
awkward, pliable, thoughtless—
a space conceived as given by some mythic creature,
            whose quicksilver calls forth breath, song, elegy, ode,
pushed to the limits of a body
repeated, gathered as if clouds could be brought to heel
            straining against its absences, its fade
air dissolving into air out there up there not your own.

Last updated December 07, 2022