Dance Piece

By Ben Belitt 1911–2003 Ben Belitt the still point, there the dance is.
—T. S. Eliot

The errand into the maze,
Emblem, the heel’s blow upon space,
Speak of the need and order the dancer’s will.
But the dance is still.

For a surmise of rest, over the flight of the dial,
Between shock of the fall, shock of repose,
The flesh in its time delivered itself to the trial,
And rose.

Suffrance: the lapse, the pause,
Were the will of the dance—
The movement-to-be, charmed from the shifts of the chance,
Intent on its cause.

And the terrible gift
Of the gaze, blind on its zenith, the wreath
Of the throat, the body’s unwearied uplift,
Unmaking and making its death,

Were ripeness, and theme for return:
Were rest, in the durance of matter:
The sleep of the musing Begetter
And the poise in the urn.

NOTES: homage to Martha Graham

Ben Belitt, “Dance Piece” from Wilderness Stair (New York: Grove Press, 1955). Used by permission of the Estate of Ben Belitt.

Source: This Scribe My Hand: The Complete Poems of Ben Belitt (Louisiana State University Press, 1998)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Ben Belitt 1911–2003

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Theater & Dance

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Ben  Belitt


Poet, translator, and professor Ben Belitt was born in New York City in 1911. He earned degrees from the University of Virginia and taught for many years at Bennington College in Vermont. Sometimes described as one of the neglected masters of 20th century American poetry, Belitt taught and influenced poets such as Susan Wheeler, Reginald Shepherd, and Lynn Emanuel while at Bennington. Susan Wheeler has described Belitt’s . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Theater & Dance

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.