Memory and Nijinsky’s Last Performance

by Eric Norris (April 2018)

Blue Window, Henri Matisse, 1913




It is an antique system of small weights

And pulleys sealed inside a window frame

Long painted shut: one where a silly face

Grins and grimaces. It is not the same


Face for you, but you should recognize

The basic features: the squashed, greasy nose

Print left on the pane, the two crossed eyes,

The pink tip of a tongue thrust so close


Against the surface you can almost taste

The cold—that lingering ammonia

Zing. It never quite evaporates—

That funny flavor. Blue. Millennia


From now, I bet, whatever lights glide past,

Memories taste sharp like that. Clean glass.



Nijinsky, Franz Kline, 1947


Nijinsky’s Last Performance


Let’s see. The clouds mirrored the rubble

Below, hard and dark. So, we danced,

And drank. A few smoked contraband Luckies,

Accompanied by me—my balalaika.


We occupied one sector of Vienna.

We passed the awful Molotov grade vodka

Around, to prove we were good comrades. Then,

I was sixteen. I’d drink and I’d turn red—


Scarlet as the star pinned to my cap.

The songs we sang were not political,

Just simple peasant melodies. The sound

Bounced across the cobbles in the square


And up the curb—like a blind man’s cane—

Until the music touched this couple—older

People—Russians. I stopped strumming when

They joined us. We had never seen ballet.

He kissed his wife. She held his coat and hat.

Scorched by schizophrenia and war,

His dark eyes sparkled and he smiled, “Play.

I’ll show you how to dance on your own grave.”


Astronomy For Beginners.

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