Sunday, September 12, 2010

Rodak Remembers: A Memoir

In June, 1969, I was married to my high school sweetheart. About a month later she departed for New London, CT, where she was enrolled in a summer dance program at Connecticut College. Accompanied by a friend, I flew out of Detroit to New York City, and then on by train to New London to visit her. It was the summer of the first moon landing. I watched that momentous event on a television in a common room of the college dormitory in which she was housed.

While in New London, I had occasion to watch a group of dancers studying Graham technique performing floor exercises. In this group of dozens of flawless male and female bodies my eye was caught and arrested by an Asian woman sitting way to the back. Just in doing these exercises, this woman’s mastery of her body and of her body’s movement, was not only apparent, but utterly amazing. Her floor ex- became a masterful performance. I became not so much a fan, as a devotee.

Yuriko was in the Martha Graham Company by the time we had moved to New York City. My wife worked her way up through Graham class into Pearl Lang’s company, and was finally hired to dance for Martha Graham in 1974 or 1975. Often accompanying the Company on tour, I was able, over the next several years, to see Yuriko perform on stage many times. She particularly blew me away performing the ballet, Errand into the Maze. It was this piece that I had in mind while writing the first stanza of the following poem. As the poem indicates, I was also able to socialize with Yuriko on several occasions. Each of these occasions was, for me, a peak experience:

for Kimura-san

when Yuriko dances,
my soul in its dark seat
is able to dance along.
Briefly I transcend
my natural grasp
to comprehend that
which I shall never feel:

xxxKimi ya chō
ware ya Sōshi no
xxxxxxxxxx~ Bashō

Last spring, in Europe,
I sat with Yuriko over dinner.
We conversed politely,
as strangers might,
and with each moment
I felt more like Icarus:

xxxIwa hana ya
Koko nimo hitori
xxxTsuki no kyaku
xxxxxxxxxx~ Kyorai

Yuriko gave me a box
of Japanese cards,
a poetry game whose beauty
I can comprehend,
but which I shall never
be able to play: such
an appropriate gift:

xxxSukaski mite
Hoshi ni sabishiki
xxxYanagi kana
xxxxxxxxxx~ Chora

Translation of the haiku in order of citation:

xxxYou are the butterfly
And I the dreaming heart
xxxof Sōshi?
xxxxxxxxxx-- Bashō

xxxOn the edge of this rock
Here is one more
xxxxxxxxxx-- Kyorai

xxxPeeping through
The willow, lonely
xxxWith stars
xxxxxxxxxx-- Chora