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A SLOW DANCE by John Montague (1975)
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Darkness, cave
drip, earth womb

we move slowly
back to our origins

the naked salute
to the sun disc

the obeisance
to the antlered tree

the lonely dance
on the grass

earth darkness
clouded moon

whirling arms
they shuffle

hair flying
eyes flashing

instep echoing
one, two as

bare heels, toe
smite the earth


A wet silence.
Wait under trees,
muscles tense,
ear lifted, eye alert.

Lungs clear.
A nest of senses
stirring awake –
human beast !

A bird lights :
two claw prints.
Two leaves shift :
a small wind.

Beneath, white
rush of current,
stone chattering
between high banks.

Occasional shrill
of a bird, squirrel
trampolining along
a springy branch.

Start a slow
dance, lifting
a foot, planting
a heel to celebrate

greenness, rain
spatter on skin,
the humid pull
of the earth.

The whole world
turning in wet
and silence, a
damp mill wheel.


In silence and isolation, the dance begins. No one is meant to watch, least of all yourself. Hands fall to the sides, the head lolls, empty, a broken stalk. The shoes fall away from the feet, the clothes peel away from the skin, body rags. The sight has slowly faded from your eyes, that sight of habit which sees nothing. Your ears buzz a little before they retreat to where the heart pulses, a soft drum. Then the dance begins, cleansing, healing. Through the bare forehead, along the bones of the feet, the earth begins to speak. One knee lifts rustily, then the other. Totally absent, you shuffle up and down, the purse of your loins striking against your thighs, sperm and urine oozing down your lower body like a gum. From where the legs join the rhythm spreads upwards – the branch of the penis lifting, the cage of the ribs whistling – to pass down the arms like electricity along a wire. On the skin moisture forms, a wet leaf or a windbreath light as a mayfly. In wet and darkness you are reborn, the rain falling on your face as it would on a mossy tree trunk, wet hair clinging to your skull like bark, your breath mingling with the exhalations of the earth, that eternal smell of humus and mould.


With a body
heavy as earth
she begins to speak;

her words
are dew, bright
deadly to drink

her hair
the damp mare’s
nest of the grass

her arms,
thighs, chance
of a swaying branch

her secret
message, shaped
by a wandering wind

puts the eye
of reason out;
so novice, blind,

ease your
hand into the
rot smelling crotch

of a hollow
tree, and find
two pebbles of quartz

protected by
a spider’s web :
her sunless breasts.


A circle of stones
surviving behind a
guttery farmhouse,

the capstone phallic
in a thistly meadow :
Seskilgreen Passage Grave.

Cup, circle,
triangle beating
their secret dance

(eyes, breasts,
thighs of a still
fragrant goddess).

I came last in May
to find the mound
drowned in bluebells

with a fearless wren
hoarding speckled eggs
in a stony crevice

while cattle
swayed sleepily
under low branches

lashing the ropes
of their tails
across the centuries.


Hinge of silence
creak for us
Rose of darkness
unfold for us
Wood anemone
sway for us
Blue harebell
bend to us
Moist fern
unfurl for us
Springy moss
uphold us
Branch of pleasure
lean on us
Leaves of delight
murmur for us
Odorous wood
breathe on us
Evening dews
pearl for us
Freshet of ease
flow for us
Secret waterfall
pour for us
Hidden cleft
speak to us
Portal of delight
inflame us
Hill of motherhood
wait for us
Gate of birth
open for us


Praise the stone :
flying from Wales,
its blue grain grows light as a feather !

Pour the libation !
The tame serpent glides to the altar
to lap the warm spiced milk.

As the first ray
of the midsummer sun
strikes through the arches

the seething scales
around the astronomer’s neck
harden to the coils of a torque.

His vestments
stiff with the dried blood
of the victim, old Tallcrook advances

singing & swaying
his staff, which shrivels & curls :
a serpent ascending a cross.

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Posted by Zariadris
10th May 2009ce

In reply to:

Megalithic Poems (Littlestone)

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