The Dance

By Gary Snyder b. 1930 Gary Snyder

Against its will, energy is doing something productive, like the devil in medieval history. The principle is that nature does something against its own will and, by self-entanglement, produces beauty.”                                                                                                             Otto Rössler

gave birth to rocks, trees, rivers, mountains, grass
and last, a blazing child
          so burned she died.
          In the land of darkness
          a mass of pollution.
          Ah wash her clear stream
          —skinny  little  girl   with   big ears
          we have passed through
                    passed through,     flesh out of flesh.
“Shining Heavens,” Goddess of the Sun,
         her brother flung
                   mud and shit and a half-skinned pony through
                   the palace,
so she entered a cave—shut it up with a rock—
         made the world dark.
Ame-no-uzume, “Outrageous Heavenly Woman,” wrapped
the numinous club-moss of Mr. Kagu round her hips, made
a headband from the leaves of nishikigi, bound bamboo
grass for her wristlets, and put a sounding-board down
before the cave where the Sun Goddess stayed.
     She danced and she stamped til it echoed around, she
danced like a goddess possessed, pulled out her nipples,
pushed her sash down til she showed herself down below,
and the Plain of High Heaven shook with the laughs and
the cheers and the whistles of thousands of gods who were
gathered to watch.
                                                                            Jean Herbert

         The whole river. Clear back to each creeklet
                  all one basin drawing in the threads
         pacing down dry riverbeds the dance,
               mai, stomping, stepping on the gravelly bar
         step, stop, stamp of the foot. Glide and turn,
                  headwaters, mountains,
                           breathing icy bliss
         diamond-glittered bitty snowcreek
         eating the inorganic granite down.
         Trees once cooled the air, and clouds, ah, ghost of
                   springs gone dry. Hills of Yugoslavia clearcut
                             for the Roman fleet
                   —don’t think all that topsoil’s gone
                           it only waits.
         —slept on river sidebars
                  drank from muddy streams
                  grains cooked in rock-flour glacier water,
                  —dirt left on boulders
                  for a sandy heap of years,
         and creeks meander                    just because they swing.
         Stamp of the masked dancer
                  pacing tangled channels
                           putting salt and gold dust in the sea.
         Ame-no-uzume-no-mikoto bound up her sleeves with
         a cord of heavenly hi-kage vine, tied around her head a
         head-band of the heavenly ma-saki vine, bound to-
         gether bundles of sasa leaves to hold in her hands, and
         overturning a bucket before the heavenly rock-cave
         door, stamped resoundingly upon it. Then she became
         divinely possessed, exposed her breasts, and pushed
         her skirt-band down to her genitals.
                                                                             Allan Grapard
         Laughter roared like thunder
                  through the plains of heaven
         and the hidden
                  Goddess of the Sun,
                  peeked out round the rock.
                  All the little faces of the gods gleamed
                           white                                        in the light!
                                       Herbert                    Grapard
Around her head:           nishikigi leaves        masaki vines
In her hands:                                                   sasa
As wristlets:                   bamboo grass
sleeves tied w/:                                                hi-kage vine
around her hips:             club moss
         Ame no uzume.
         What did she wear?
                  What leaves in her hair?
         How far did she push her skirt down?

Gary Snyder, “The Dance” from Mountains and Rivers Without End. Copyright © 2008 by Gary Snyder. Reprinted by permission of Counterpoint Press.

Source: Mountains and Rivers Without End (Counterpoint Press, 2008)

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Poet Gary Snyder b. 1930

Subjects Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Religion, God & the Divine, Other Religions, The Spiritual, Mythology & Folklore

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Gary  Snyder


Gary Snyder began his career in the 1950s as a noted member of the “Beat Generation,” though he has since explored a wide range of social and spiritual matters in both poetry and prose. Snyder’s work blends physical reality and precise observations of nature with inner insight received primarily through the practice of Zen Buddhism. While Snyder has gained attention as a spokesman for the preservation of the natural world and . . .

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SUBJECT Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Religion, God & the Divine, Other Religions, The Spiritual, Mythology & Folklore

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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