Why Does the Dervish Dance?

Dancing Dervishes
(Before reading, you may want to read, “Why I Wrote ‘Why Does The Dervish Dance?‘ “)

I’ve seen a dozen children quiet in their chairs
when a simple song begins and several leave their seats.
A single grinning tot begins to run and jump and spin,
and soon a half a score of boys and girls are whirling,
punctuating turns with leaps
—and I am grinning too.

But why does the dervish dance,
always turning, turning, turning,
with his skirt afloat and wide,
with such intensity
and heedless of those gathered near?

Every planet follows its ellipse around a mother sun
and each one spins sedately on its poles.
The greatest stars revolve as well
and hold their plain around a heavy light-less hole.


Who taught the Sufi how to dance?
Saturn? Venus? Mars or Earth?
Did the million midnight stars
arcing overhead whisper he must turn?

The couple rarely dances now, but when they do,
they spin as one on close held feet
and hold each other tight against the gyral pull.
The polka, foxtrot, and the swing are all forgotten, but
they can spin so spin they do
until the other dancers and the room turn in a cloud around them
—and they are young and perfect once again.

Why does the Dervish take such care
to plant his left foot on the earth,
and with the right impel himself in dizzy rounds?
Why such energy compressed in simple dance?

I’ve seen a figure skater flit through loops and jumps,
and glide in fluid arcs into her closing spin
—starting slowly, arms out wide,
then drawing both in close until she is a whirling,magic blur.

And now the Sufi lifts one hand
—to reach? to point? to gather in?
What does the dervish seek
with eyes cast on his open hand?

We watch the sun come up and move across the sky, but our eyes are tricked
—for earth’s astounding mass turns ceaselessly around its core,
the mountains, oceans, rivers, trees and we turn in accord
—we never note our common speed—
and sunrise, day and night are pure and simply our united turning.

In a universe so full of turning,
why does the Sufi turn?
In a cosmos heedless of his act,
why does the dervish dance?
Is the secret in the careless child who rolls so freely down the grassy hill,
tumbling, tumbling, tumbling down?
Does he want to lose himself in all his turning?
Why does the dervish dance?

Dancing Children
If you liked this, you might also like: 
Time Brings All Things Back,”  a poem 
I Love the Solstice—But…” a poem 
In Reality, the Sun Neither Rises Nor Sets,” a very short poem 

Share: Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather


Why Does the Dervish Dance? — 1 Comment

  1. I haven’t read this yet, but I did a fair amount of slow spins in Holland this afternoon while dancing! Nobody else wanted to spin. Actually, I think the children did, but then they would look at their parents who would give them that look: “We. Do. Not. Spin.”

Please share your thoughts and comments.

Your email address will not be published.