You don’t need to know the words
chiton, peplos, himation
to understand
Martha Graham’s pagan feet.

Blood Memory was the name she chose
for her life story.
The body doesn’t lie, she told her dancers.

Martha was asked before a world tour
whether audiences in Japan
would need explanations of her work,
or in Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Iran?
(They might as well have asked
about Dayton, Dallas and Detroit.)

This was dance like no one had seen
for centuries, a complete renunciation
of Renaissance iconography,
of ballet traditions, toe shoes and tutus
tiaras and fever dreams of swans
escaping into a fantasy of flight and transformation.

This was the dance of a prisoner
of gravity, of history, a prisoner of grief.
Statuesque, though confined to a narrow bench
and encased in the skin
of a fabric tube, she dared to let us see
the eternal struggle of a solitary heart.

I am only interested if they feel it, she said.

[K Roberts is a non-fiction writer and artist who also writes poetry.]

Image Credits
Left side:
Funerary Statue, 300 B.C., at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens
From Wikimedia Commons, photo by Tilemahos Efthimiadis of Athens, Greece. Photo licensing level is Attribution 2.0. Required disclosure: the image has been adjusted for size and cropped (to remove non-essential background details not part of the statue itself.)

Funerary Statue 
Gallery for photographer Tilemahos Efthimiadis on Flikr:
The original photo on Flikr – Funerary statue of a woman wearing a chiton and himation 
Attribution license link 

Right side:
Martha Graham performing her choreography of “Lamentation No. 6” circa 1939. Photo by Herta Moselsio from the Library of Congress collections, provided for educational, research and non-commercial use. The photographer is deceased. Disclosure: the image has been adjusted for size and cropped (to remove a tinted matte border that is not part of the photo itself.)

“Martha Graham in Lamentation, No. 6”, image and licensing statement 
Index for the full collection of Herta Moselsio photos of this performance 
The LOC requests any persons who have more information about the image contact the Performing Arts Reading Room (Library of Congress)