Pas De Deux


Anguish woke our startled minds from dreaming-
sun seeps through the blinds, sifts what remains of us,
flooding the sheets in angles of shard light,
illuminating the inquest which had not
-as we hoped- dissipated in the murk.
Questions scurry from the brightness
seeking solace with us in the waning dark.

Adrift in the wake of last night’s inquisition,
afraid to reach out and touch the fragile
continuance we somehow manage to maintain,
fearful that touch will shatter the remnant-us,
until, bearing communal isolation no longer,
you open your eyes and catch me
staring at you from across the bed.
Your lines narrow, scouting my features,
seeking clues to unanswerable questions.
I pull the coverlet over your shoulder,
burrow into the insular layers.
Undulate waves lap their weeping.
Our silent exchange: soliloquies in stillness.
Suddenly, your mouth opens slightly
and I know - you read the hunger in my eyes.

Each morning unveils the discovery anew:
no reprieve from our grief will be granted.
The sun will continue to burn a hole
in the remainder of our days, and so
we retreat each night to this vessel,
to shelter sorrow and enfold ourselves within,
returning to the lovers we once were
in a pas de deux between melody and dirge,
a coda delicate of inviolate despair.

About this poem:

In ballet, a pas de deux (French: ‘step of two’) is a dance duet and also means ‘an intricate relationship between two people’. Though it is now (obviously) dated, the 1968 film Pas De Deux by Canadian animator Norman McClaren (who influenced Picasso, Truffaut, and George Lucas) best illustrates the powerful symmetry and emotional depth in a pas de deux. The film won a BAFTA for Best Animated Film and an Academy Award nomination. McClaren once stated, ‘I have tried to preserve … the same closeness and intimacy that exists between a painter and his canvas … and so my militant philosophy is this: to make with a brush on canvas is a simple and direct delight – to make with a movie should be the same’.

The hypnotic short film captures the essence of what I was attempting to convey in the poem. I won’t explicate this poem for to do so seems to deconstruct the experience and make it solely mine when I believe this is a poem that many will understand and perhaps even some appropriate as their own. (Suffice it to say, or rather, quote, from the Dutch artist M. C. Escher: ‘What I give form to in daylight is only one percent of what I have seen in darkness’).

Poetry is at once a window and a mirror. Immediately, intimately, we personify poetry. We peer into the lines and simultaneously look within and without. I love poetry for this reason, it is at once personal and universal, ecumenical and intrinsic.


Photo from Norman McClaren’s film.

Rejoicing in each other, they returned to their bed,
The old familiar place they loved so well.

– From The Odyssey

Why I Write Poetry: Full Disclosure (A Poet’s Regret)


Categories : Poetry