“Some people dance cheek to cheek…”

Although I’ve found this beast atop the northwest tower difficult to photograph, I’ve long wondered why he—she? it?—holds such a savage grip on a mere bird. Then I realized: From a monster’s point of view, they’re dancing.

(after Edgar Degas, “Four Dancers,” c.1899, National Gallery of Art)

In the wings, a measured rest.
Four as one in florid fits

Flitter in. The wald submits.
Autumns rise upon the scene:

In a rush of salmoned green
Tender tressings flip, exchanged,

Battened fast, or rearranged.
Trellising her arm, the first

Honors artifice reversed:
“Wasted branches bow, and then

Painted planklings bough again.”
Half as daft, the second sets

Flambent straps, but scarce forgets
Quips that crab her brittle heart:

“Oui, technique—mais où est l’art?”  
Sembling innocence, the third,

Primping, pincing, undeterred,
Shoulders not a knot of shame

Lest regret, or light acclaim
Drag her down, or bow her stance.

Note the last; no lasting glance
Lingers there for us to see.

Music lifts her. Fanions flee—
Blithe she twirls, and none observe

Lesser lines we scarce deserve
(You and I) to leer and know.

Laud her flourish. Let her go
Pattern grace, while we pretend

Faux Novembers never end.
Autumn twilight sets too soon;

Fumbling, we belie the tune
(You and I) that times the turns

Every gilded dancer learns.
Let their line, from fourth to first,

Misperceive why we rehearsed,
Wrought the light from blighted rhyme,

Warped the chord in common time,
Daubed the gloss, as their debut

Burnished our façade anew.
Late, they loiter back, to find

Nothing I disclose in kind.
Fold your program; feign we see

Faith in faint simplicity,
False in sight, divine in show,

Pas de deux de deux, they go,
Pirandelles of perfect stone

Turn together, dance alone.

(For all the entries in this series, hit the “looking up” tab, or read the gargoyle FAQ.)

2 thoughts on ““Some people dance cheek to cheek…”

  1. Loved it — I always enjoy the sound and sense in your poems, Jeff. By the way, have you seen advertisements for the show “Knights of Mayhem”? Just saw the first ad for it today on National Geographic. It made me think of your post about the modern jousting competition. Not sure what the show is about, but it looked like it might be interesting, especially to the eye of a medievalist.


  2. Thanks, Chris. Even if getting the sense takes work, I like to hope that the sound falls easily on the ear.

    I hadn’t known about “Knights of Mayhem,” but I’m glad you pointed me to it. Even if it’s terrible (which it probably will be), it makes conveying the “medievalism is everywhere!” message that much easier…


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