Those Who Do Not Dance

by Gabriela Mistral

English version by Helene Masslo Anderson
Original Language Spanish

A crippled child
Said, "How shall I dance?"
Let your heart dance
We said.

Then the invalid said:
"How shall I sing?"
Let your heart sing
We said

Then spoke the poor dead thistle,
"But I, how shall I dance?"
Let your heart fly to the wind
We said.

Then God spoke from above
"How shall I descend from the blue?"
Come dance for us here in the light
We said.

All the valley is dancing
Together under the sun,
And the heart of him who joins us not
Is turned to dust, to dust.

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

I thought this poem might be a good choice in honor of the weekend's Women's Marches across the world.

With this poem, the great Chilean poet, Gabriela Mistral, through simple language, is exploring how we move beyond our assumed limitations and express joy, creativity, life. How do we dance when the body does not respond? When we have grown dry and prickly and lost most of our substance, is it possible we can fly? Even God, at least the God of our imaginations, needs an invitation in which we gather together in the light.

The more we remember, as we see our limitations as new pathways rather than roadblocks, we begin to come alive, reconnect, and dance, until all valley is in movement with us under the sun.

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The Power of Poetry -- and "Nasty Women"

I posted this on the Poetry Chaikhana's Facebook page over the weekend, but I thought I should share it here, as well. This is a video of the actress Ashley Judd reciting a poem by a 19-year-old young woman about "Nasty Women." As she speaks this poem, she stalks across the stage and channeling the shared experience of outrage combined with a renewed spirit of self-assertion. It is blunt, the language and imagery will be uncomfortable for many. But I share it for this reason: This poem, and the way it is delivered, is undeniably powerful. This poem has become one of the focal points of this massive movement. Refusing to mince words, this poem gives voice to the feelings of so many women who participated in this weekend's events.

That is the power of poetry. Crystalizing and magnifying the sense of identity and purpose within the collective awareness.

Whether or not you like the poem or the mood it represents, I encourage you to watch in order to see the power of poetry as it operates within society.

Ashley Judd's "Nasty Woman" Speech



Recommended Books: Gabriela Mistral

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral





Those Who Do Not