Parts of a Dee Dance and an Open-Ended Response to Maurice Scully’s own “Dances” and in particular his “Butoh”

Jesse Glass

april 29th 2005

Ear to the shewstone /set c,o,r,r,e,c,t,l,y on the Table of Art:

“I come unto you again.”

Eye to the shewstone (gift of an Angel):

falling, turning as a brick cracked from a wall
by sequential explosions
(musk of foot & thigh)
& must step near to observe yr. leap
yr. stuttering stop
so unlike us here in our block of gelatinized
seeing you flash & ripple before us from one surface to
the next,
Pivot on one foot yet again
broken line
nearer mill yr. arms
to ratios sealed in cell & shell
We shift in our distorting space, counting/
whispering in unison
all that you point out
in yr. gyrations on the xylophonic floor
& call for opera glass & microscope
to confirm
the Dimensions of a Winged Teardrop
shifting in plurispace
as you squat, perspiring,
arms two sweeps of muscle
pillar legs, lunar knee-caps
hands cupped around a GLYPH,/AN UNVOICED SOUND
a s,c,i,s,s,o,r,i,n,g,
between two broken cliffs of rain.

Tokyo reflected in it. Now

someone’s in the stone–

secrets to be shouted
gestured with pointed toe, arched back
leveled leg:::::
“the man in my left eye
“the woman in my right
“dance an angular flutter foot
“on migraine parquet
“chartreuse & lozengular

slow cooling
under a thick



I am not so in yr. presence: [heave-odes,
the perpetual Sub-Me]

12-sided transmuted ingot NOW GROWN HUGE IN MY HAND--BLOCKING OUT MOON & SUN


the pattern of a TREE
upon her gown,
dust of Holy Rood
upon the hem
& lace at her throat.
peering into my room from the shewstone, sez

shadowed & hell-
desyre me app & tite
few or none be erthy 2
ha’ embraced me, for yamna
dowghter of forti2de,
& ravyshed every hoowr, from
my glistering youth, for behooooold,
eye yamna yrnderstaynding,
& Science dwelleth in mee:
& the hevens oppress me also,
They covet me 1, 2, 3/
desyre with infinite circlings
of sonne & moon: for yamna covered--yea--clystyr’d
with drone droolinga weeping (t)horns:
my feet swifter than wynds
my tongue softer than wyrd & woord,
& yamna yam thet eye yam

The Aztec Stone Goes Pink.



Dance, as the O.E.D. gives the word to us;

1. A rhythmical skipping and stepping, with regular turnings and movements of limbs and body, usually to the accompaniment of music; either as an expression of joy, exultation, and the like, or as an amusement or entertainment; the action or an act or round of dancing.


2 b. A tune or musical composition for regulating the movements of a dance, or composed in a dance rhythm...[with this example from 1597]: ...songs which being sung to a dittie may likewise be daunced.

Under these two definitional *Stars* we track the movement of a sequence of poems by Maurice Skully; this “word/body” turning regularly from light to darkness (as the figure of a woman or man on a large, empty (st)/(pa)/(age) & from the left to right hand margins progressing “as an expression of joy, exultation, and the like...” down the sequential leaves toward closure and remembrance of trope & gesture, & re/performance in an even more private Theater of Memory & (to be taken & extended even further) into the kinetics of nerve & tongue’s sub-vocative meat quiver.

Unpacking an allusion here to Herbert Halpert’s recording (Chilhowie, Virginia, 1939) of Horton Barker’s version of “The Two Sisters,” which is playing while I write this. The refrain of “bow and balance to me” seeming to indicate to musicologists that this masterful story-telling ballad was actually a dance. (How I would have loved to have seen the stately “bow and balance to me” take place to the fiddle!)

“Oh sister, oh sister, please lend me your hand,”
bow and balance to me,
“Oh sister, oh sister, please lend me your hand,
And you may have Willie and all of his land.”
And I’ll be true to my love
If my love will be true to me.

Scully’s “dances” as I perceive them partake of this ballad-like, story-telling quality: at once old home-spun and newest of new.

Which brings us round again–
gents step forward as the ladies
fall back–to that job application
returned unopened this morning
thanking you for yr interest &
wishing you every success in yr
future career tra-la not so much
that you’ve just arrived (tra-la)
but that you’ll never get there
Tra La.

So there.


(“[Hungarian] Folk Dance: Artist’s Studio”)



this is a day.
this is a moment
in a day. this
is the point of

intersection of
a moment in a day.
this is its noise.
this is a series

of flashes. this
is a further series
bled into crevices
and burnt back on

to each other


(“Fallai Luminbi: Tree With Eggs”)

As dances begin among the mundane circumstances of life ( Nijinsky trying on new slippers, jealousy between two sisters, a failed job application, a list of days or of objects on a table), so Scully sets up a dance in the perception of things-as-they-are that then often proceeds to resonate with Wabi/sabi gongs:


here we
see a monk
in a mountain-
top temple

down in-
to an eroded rock-pool–

(“Thorns Spindles Twigs”)

or, an even finer example:


a pebble
on a soapstone
dish beside
an acorn cup
its thin veins
between a/open to
a/a split a
in a hollow
a slit cur[v]ing
back to its
top side
size of a
small bird’s
cool in yr.

(“Butoh: Coup De Soleil”)

...framed in white by the page, so that the eyes are drawn to the curves and interlacings (Celtic influence (?), but the designs of the Jomon and Yayoi also spin labyrinths) & are repeated conceptually as well as visually in the splittings and inter/leavings of the passage as well as aurally in the vowel performance of the sequence. This is territory opened and owned by Frank Samperi (via Zukofsky), but others have crossed it too. Scully does it with lightest feet.

But the poet clobbers us with Butoh in the title and here I must assume all fours and run with the dogs and request
that one and all read
some of Hijikata Tatsumi’s own words as the founder of Butoh (& psychic twin of Artaud) addresses the basic nature of the dance he discovered:”’You have to pull your stomach up high in order to turn your solar plexus into a terrorist.’ That line is from a letter I sent to Ms. Elian Margaret, a woman with psychic powers who wrote a commentary last summer about my anal art. This woman was a good collaborator (and the person who gave me my annual tonsure), but owing to intense conflicts in my daily life I was in a state of secretly hiring someone in civilian clothes and continuing to choreograph. It is she who recommended that I write an essay on impotence and told me, too, in a letter written with invisible ink, that the anuses of Greek youth were utterly ruined. There is no way to remove ignorance and misery from my dances, but I do want people to draw a lesson about hereditary diseases from them, as Ms. Margaret did. I have never been visited by genius and my appearance is far from that of a certified incompetent. Not a devotee of ghost aesthetics, I am a mere virgin. My semen would bring a good price...” (Inner Material/ Material).

I could mine more Hijikata, or even assault you with Artaud and be equally true to the nature of “Butoh,” but here”s Scully again, from the same “Butoh” poem as above:

woke on a planet of echo woke
shaken woke amazed woke ready
to rework all of the preceding
woke on edge woke desperate woke

in visible light hitting a city in
parts a bright bit CV descending
round a core lens deft & around
again at 53 makes sense degrees

(Gone hysteria, gone Hijikata’s obsession with bodily function, fragmentation, misery and decay, gone darkness, anality and absurdity. We find blazing lucidity in this Asian-seeming dance, structure, the orderly progression of narrative and even joy. Where’s the Butoh!??? Answer: there’s none to be found among these dancing words. Does this make Maurice Scully a liar? (Plato knew that all poets are liars including your humble correspondent.) I think that in this poem Maurice Scully is as gloriously mistaken as a skilled artist can ever be, yet some would argue that he’s not ultimately mistaken, for he–in partaking of the ecstacy of creation–is one of Nietzche’s “light-footed dancers of the gods” who creates his own truth as he proceeds, his brows crowned with laurels and the thrysis in his hand.

In short Maurice Scully takes us through a whole repertoire of “dances,” of various velocities, Gavotte, Minuet, Hungarian Folk Dance, yet the feeling of “bow and balance to me”–-the dance of narrative that does not strain for the uncanny---remains with the best and truest of them.

“Mr. Barker, do you remember when you learned that song?”
“I learned that song from Mrs. Ed Roe, about 1906.]
“Tell me, how did you learn that song?”
“She just kept singing it over for me until I...
“...Over & over?”
“Over & over till I became familiar with the words and tune.”

Shin-Urayasu, Japan. June, 2007.


1. My Dee dance is drawn from a series of textual workings of Meric Casaubon’s A True and Faithul Relation of what passed for many Yeers Between Dr. John Dee and Some Spirits: London, 1659. I’ve attempted to replicate certain of the scrying sessions that Dee and his sinister Alchemist friend Kelley performed in the 1580’s in England and on the Continent. The fine poet Alan Halsey and I ventured out upon the strange seas of this text a couple of years back and have returned with strange creatures hooked through the gills. Alan has created an Opera from his bounty, while mine seem determined to grow darker (as in Artaud and Hijikata) as they revolve. (Note, words with letters separated by commas are spelled in performance.)

2. See the wonderful Library of Congress reissue of Anglo-American Ballads, Volume Two from Rounder Records, 1999. “The Two Sisters” is band 5 on this recording. The dialogue between Mr. Barker and Herbert Halpert is taken from the end of band 6 “Lord Thomas and Fair Ellender.”

3. The Hijikata quote comes from The Drama Review 44, 1 (Spring, 2000), page 36. Translated by Kurihara Nanako and Jacqueline S. Ruyak.