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"The Ancient Dance: A Ghazal"

I received birth, grasped this world, and knew deeply that it is not enough to
view dance,
So I begged, teach me the eons past, I will receive that, too. Let me speak
through dance.

Kings, sages, mendicants, and, yes, yes, goddesses, all told with my body,
mouth, hands,
I wait behind velvet, drawn in drunk by the chords and patterns and beats that
cue dance.


As am I, so are you, profoundly yoked to what sweeps and thunders above,
around, within us,
You do not believe me, I see your face, I feel your doubt. I understand why so
few dance.


He asked what was different about me, and I tried to speak my pulses,
heartbeats, history,
He taunted, he jeered, ah, I know, I see, this is for men, this is what you do to
woo, dance.


Dheepa, it is no matter! You know this is passage between yourself and
throbbing creation,
It is more than show, more than story, more than a human being on a stage,
true dance.

"The Ancient Dance: A Ghazal" first published in Every Day Poems; subsequently published in How to Write a Form Poem

Notes: Like a sonnet or sestina, a ghazal is a form poem with specific rules of construction. For example, in most traditional ghazals: (1) The last word of lines 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, etc. must be exactly the same, but the word preceding it should rhyme with its counterparts on the other lines; (2) The writer calls to herself by name in the next-to-last line.

   Learning the Indian classical dance Bharath Natyam while growing up was such an honor and a privilege. Through this expressive and elegant art form, I felt a beautiful connection to my cultural and spiritual heritage, and I learned to communicate its ancient stories and philosophies.

     The fourth stanza refers to a specific incident when I was asked, "Aren't you just dancing for men?" The question caught me off guard because this dance form is such an honorable tradition, and it meant so much to me. After a few moments, I gathered my wits and explained.

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