A Shooting Star and a Pastoral Poem

Nancy Kunneman, a writer from my Lifelong Learning Institute of Chesterfield’s Poetry Workshop was inspired by an article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch article on Lauren Fagone, a dancer from the Richmond Ballet who hung up her dancing shoes after almost two decades of stellar performances. In an article written about Fagone before her final week of performances, RTD reporter Zachery Reid wrote, “For the first time in nearly two decades as a professional ballerina, Lauren Fagone has become the center of attention for what she says, not how she moves. In a profession where grace and beauty are conveyed, not spoken, Fagone has been thrust into the oddly uncomfortable position of having to talk, since announcing her retirement in September [of 2015] that the topic is herself hasn’t helped. “I have dedicated my life thus far to the work, the storytelling and the audience, and I only want viewers to be as present in these final shows as I intend to be myself,’ she said. ‘A dancer necessarily must forget the past and future to fully experience the present in a performance, and in order to carry the audience along with me, I hope that they will forgo the speculation and curiosity about me as an individual and live with my character.The conversation keeps coming up because Fagone is retiring after the Richmond Ballet’s season finale next week, bringing to an end an association that began when she was hired as a trainee in 2001.What she’s going to do after retiring, she’s keeping to herself, no matter how many people ask, ‘I want the focus to stay on the season, on the ballet,’ said Fagone, who was dancing by age 4 and has been a professional since she was 17. She’ll dance the lead one more time, in a Studio Three production of “The Rite of Spring.” As “The Chosen One,” she’ll dance to her death in a piece so controversial at the time of its 1913 debut, it caused rioting in Paris. Presumably, she’ll come back to life in time for a curtain call. Then she’ll take a final bow, at age 35, and walk away from the only career she has known. Like professional athletes the world over — and ballet dancers are every bit the athlete as anyone on a basketball court or football field — she has spent a career in a field that exacts a heavy toll on the human body.”

In Nancy Kunnemann’s poem about Fagone,  which she entitled, “A Dance Ago”, she writes:

Swirl, twirl my pretty girl, let your

arms down.

When you’re not dancing, your soul is

sinking, weighted to the ground.

Your heart beats heavy, while gravity

holds you, your mind begins to lead.

So change your shoes, lift up your arms,

my child, for you are freed.

The minutes pulse, a passionate dance,

no longer so rehearsed.

A sweeping bow, an upturned glance,

the darkness has dispersed.

It’s here you’ve longed for, within this

second, when all sorrows lifted.

A gentle smile, a silent prayer, to God

for being gifted.

Your feet are bare, the dance has ended, only you hear a sigh.

only you hear a sigh.

Memories take you, a thought can break

you, you hadn’t meant to cry.

The time is brief, the pain is back, a

moment felt so right.

Another day, you’ll dance again, and

walk slowly toward the night.

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Charlie Wayland is a photographer and a poet in our LLIChesterfield.org Poetry Workshop. Last year I attended I photo exhibition of several of his works at a LLI art show. He was eager to explain in each image to me and other observers. When he joined my Poetry Workshop, I suggested that he write some poems about his works. At first, he was reluctant, stating “I took most of these photos years ago.” I reminded him that many of the poems we were writing and reading were reflections of memories from years ago, so why not write some poems about your pictures? He said he waited until the night before our class last week and set up this photo:

Shenandoah Photo and Poem by Charlie Wayland
Shenandoah Photo and Poem by Charlie Wayland

He entitled the poem that came to him after reflecting on his photo, “Shalom.”

 It has been there all along,

Maybe even back to Noah,

I caught the scene fleeting by

A true view of Shenandoah.

The serenity of the meadow,

The diagonal of the stream

Gave the flock of grazing animals

Their own sense of self-esteem.

Flow gently living waters

Through You, we can abide.

You show patience and reflective measures

Of continued journey’s stride.

Some of the workshop participants thought the poem had the tone and soothing qualities of a Psalm of the Bible. I remarked that it was interesting how the stream was running on a diagonal in the photo intersecting both sides of the land. In addition, the word, “diagonal” intersect the poem in the middle and divides it into two subject areas: the land and the living creatures energized by God. We all hope that he writes more poems about his photographs. If you would like to send a word to Nancy Kunnmann, Charlie Wayland, or me, leave a comment at the bottom of this blog, or send me an email to ellisonms2@vcu.edu. You can also give your email to the right of this column to automatically receive updates of Litchatte.

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Murray Ellison received a Master’s in Education (1973) and in English Literature (2015). He earned a Doctorate in Education in 1987. He is married and has three adult employed daughters. He retired as the Virginia Director of Community Corrections for the Department of Correctional Education in 2009. Currently, he serves as a literature teacher, board member, and curriculum advisor for the Lifelong Learning Institute in Chesterfield, Virginia, and the founder and chief editor of the literary blog, www.LitChatte.com. He is an editor for the “Correctional Education Magazine,” and editing a book of poetry written by an Indian mystic. He also serves as a board member and occasional volunteer tour guide, poetry judge, and all-around helper at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond Virginia. You can write to Murray by leaving a Comment on this Blog, or at ellisonms2@vcu.eduMurray Ellison at the Richmond Poe Museum

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