Layering the Past by Jean Colonomos

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Layering the Past by Jean Colonomos
Illustration by Sue Babcock

After Martha Graham, ‘Dancer of the Century’ (Time Magazine)

It was a moment of grace, like a firefly
lighting a moonless night when Martha
told us in a voice that came from her toes,

When two wolves fight,
the one who’s losing
bares its neck for the kill.

Though my younger self lacked the reach
to suck out symbolic codes,
as years add up, I wonder if Graham,
climbing toward seventy,
was baring her neck to age.

Her years of choreographic discoveries
narrowed. You could see physical disintegration
in Cortege of Eagles where Martha embodies
the grief-crazed Queen of Troy. Graham strikes
poses, her twisted torso, clawed hands like hooks
as if Hecuba could hold onto her family,
her people, her country being wiped off the earth.

Graham is that Queen, exiled from her body

whose language she doesn’t speak,

yet she holds us in her thrall.

What I remember is how vividly
Martha lived inside her animal self,
her black-olive eyes with their faraway look
while body, mind, heart and spirit gleamed
with the depth of how far she’d come.

Her blood, pulsing
with life and death
when the wolf is at the door.


BIO: Jean Colonomos began her career in the arts as a member of the Martha Graham Dance Company. She segued into poetry and playwriting and is an award winning writer in both disciplines. She’s published online and in several poetry journals and has been a featured poet in many venues, most recently at Beyond Baroque in Venice, CA. Her chapbook is Art Farm. Recently she’s written a call and response poetry volume with poet Ann Buxie titled, Knock, Knock. Ms. Colonomos has served on grants panels for the Los Angeles Cultural Arts Department and PEN Center USA. She also co-hosts Loose Lips poetry events with poet, Millicent Borges Accardi, at the Topanga Library. As a post script, she’s deep in a volume of poems about her life as a dancer.