Dancing in Trance: Drenched in the Divine by Kavita Venkateswar

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Dancing in Trance: Drenched in the Divine

by Kavita Venkateswar

Flutes of the bamboo tremble
The thrum of the gamelan
Resonates under my feet
Strike of the mallet
Metallophones ring
Strings, rebab, rise
In symphony
I tremble

It is she
She comes for us

Crash of the gong wadoan
pendulous breasts swinging, white scarf round her head
here enters the witch
into the temple of the divine
grotesque and riveting in her magic
I cannot bear to look
I lay on the dirt
I should not
I cannot

But she has come for the king
Who has refused her daughter’s hand
His emissary pleads
The Kedang Ageng drum rumbles
Thunder under my palms
A breath of fire burns
He is human no longer, but a dragon of ancient lore
I cannot look
I should not look

Thick heavy air shrouds the dancers
The witches plague has come
I cannot look
I should not look

I fall to the ground
I cannot look
I should not look

A hand falls across my neck
My eyes open before I can think
I cannot look
I should not?
But in the veil of smoke,
The dragon’s eyes pierce my soul
I cannot help but look

It is them
They have come for us

The drum beats into my consciousness
The throb of the bass sounding in my ear
Da-dum da-dum da-dum
But wait, that is the drum no longer
It is my heart, yet not even mine
Flooding my body, my blood
Drenched in the divine

The spirit has entered me
I am no longer myself

The blade, its curve an ocean wave
Grey, a wave caught in the tumult of a storm
The kris, weapon of the heavenly
The blade turns in my hand, her hand,
In our hand perhaps, I cannot tell
I am lost

Body seizes
Arms spasm
Legs convulse
Hands jerk
And the kris stabs the chest
Over and over
Horrific and beautiful
Jab and thrust
Eerie and magnificent
thrust and blow

an arresting sight
with blood never drawn
legs half bent, huddled
feet open, torso to the side
sensual arching of the spine
womanly curve of the buttocks
and the spirit dances the legong
and more intricate


I cannot help but look, listen
To the priest who speaks of dance I had never learned
But performed flawlessly in the most scared of temples
Of the celestial that coursed through my veins
Of the hours I cannot remember

Not a dance
But a trance
A prayer to the gods

Kavita Venkateswar is a recent graduate of Rice University in Houston, Texas, with a degree in Chemical Engineering. Her poetry has been published in The Dreamcatcher: Awaken the Sleeping Poet Festival and in R2: The Rice Review. In 2011, she was awarded the Schumann Brothers Grant for Creative Expression, through which she was awarded $1000 to research and create a series of poems about different types of world dance. Her favorite poets are Naomi Shihab Nye and Emily Dickinson. Kavita is an avid photographer and Bharata Natyam dancer, and will be pursuing advanced study in dance in India this fall. She currently lives in San Antonio, Texas.