DANCING THE MAY

A bright afternoon, the sky blue
that not so long ago
was full of rain.  A thrush or two
sings from a bush.  Cold water flows
down from the dam.  Through
the air, the scent of earth.  And so
the people gather and agree
to dance the May around the tree.

The old women know just what to do:
weave the ribbons tight and high,
bind the lovers, ease the pattern,
dance and bend and sing and sigh,
dance to live and dance to die,
dance Earth in her complexity,
touch and listen, taste and see.

In and out the dancers go–
stiff and awkward, graced and easy,
solemn, laughing, nimble, slow,
careful, gentle, neighborly,
elders, youth and children twirling by.
If there is a door, this is the key.

Yet here the ribbons bulge oddly and uneven–
something out of line,
out instead of in, the wrong shoulder, counterturn.
The old women nod,
Even so.  The dance goes on.

What is woven here will stay.
Who knows what the year will bring?
Death and sorrow, flee away!

Come into the wood today,
dance ‘round our Maypole in a ring.

Thus once again, we dance the May.

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