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.”


Eric Norris's short stories and reviews have appeared in: Foglifter, Ambit, Impossible Archetype, The Peacock Journal, Classical Outlook, E-Verse Radio, Singapore Poetry, Softblow, Assaracus, Glitterwolf, New Walk Magazine, The Raintown Review, The Goodmen Project, The Nervous Breakdown, and American Arts Quarterly. His latest book is Astronomy For Beginners.

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