The Way They Moved

Pina Bausch (choreographer), The Rite of Spring

[‘The Way They Moved’ has just won second prize in the Shoalhaven Literary Award competition 2012, judged by Judith Beveridge. Enjoy. The photos are from a work by my favourite German choreographer, the late Pina Bausch and her Wuppertaler Tanztheater.]

The Way They Moved

In the whorehouses on the dead outskirts of the River Plate, hard men invented the tango blind
with the boredom of waiting for their taciturn turns of consolation & grind

In Rio’s pulsing carnivals rolling out from the lower depths regional black rhythms fused
into pelvic ecstasies of sex & life that became the samba’s sinuous muse

In, yes, Perdido Street in1906 New Orleans five-year-old Satchmo watched, listless, from a window
down onto poverty & nothing-new till one day from a corner Billy Bolden blew

his party- & funeral-raising horn at the sky encircled by clapping, singing, dance, &, shaking
with sound, almost fell from the window into his calling called jazz, soul quaking

with the bold cornet of a phantom called Billy soon sectioned in the Negro Section
where he died unknown, unrecorded, round the time the Street crashed all connection,

the unemployed queued, workers marched into red, black or brown, & jazz
became big band, respectable & white.

When the black & white students of the sixties went south to sit-in segregated cafes
& be fire-hosed or mauled by police dogs, a reporter held a mike to a local young black
& asked what had prompted her to join these blow-ins from the north:

it was the way they moved, she said,
the way they moved

In ‘68 it was somatic conviction that convinced our eye & gut
long before any clever word hit the expectant brain, an inward dance propelled
by black pulsations of hip & spine, the blues, rock-and-roll, the saxy free jazz
of struggle that infused the opening horizons of our blue-note night

it was the way they moved
the way they moved

Even in the most rarefied branching of the live & leaderless symphony of the human tree
poetry sings the melodic line above the sustained bass of sweat & struggle,
toil & tenderness, debate & dance, moving like wheat fields in the cross-winds
of history, memory, calm animations of dignity, upright refusal
to doff caps, tug forelocks, sit at the back of the bus

it was the way they moved
the way they moved

Even through filigreed Bach, Beethoven, Schönberg, through Whitman, Rilke, Neruda
the subtle ear may hear the thud of peasant feet, hammer & beat of working hands,
poetic cadence in the rise & fall of civilisations, spiral dance of humanity’s long dark
quest towards itself, driving propaganda of the lowly deed, feet stomping in struggle
rock & rolling with the planet exfoliating its potentials powered by the progress
of the cyclic sun revolving around nothing, no one, but itself

it was the way they moved
the way they moved

Even within the nine-second cage Mrs H. had to weld one
of the three thousand one hundred & forty daily tubes,
she had, over the dead vast of years, maintaining her piece-rate,
found the tiny seed of freedom’s breath: for a micro-second
her arm & shoulder briefly winged upwards
in one totally superfluous movement of her own

one invisibly angelic movement of her own


~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on August 29, 2012.

2 Responses to “The Way They Moved”

  1. Hey Peter!
    It’s Zane, ex-IOPS.
    I just wanted to say how much I love this poem. Great work!
    Do you know this wrtier:?:
    Hope you’re well!

    • Hi Zane, good to hear from you again, and many thanks for the kind comment and link. I haven’t heard of the person you’ve mentioned and will check out the link.

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