They Made Their Words SING!

Now All We Have to do is Dance.

I can’t sing. I should make that clear from the start. When my daughter was in middle school, she played tennis with the big kids. The high school player who took her to the courts stopped by the art gallery where I worked one afternoon and said, “Ms. Craver, I’ll be glad to take her to tennis, but tell her she can’t sing in my car.”

I did. She didn’t. We all lived happily ever after.

Flat keys and flat feet run in our family. But we can read. I have an ear for a finely tuned phrase. I know when the words are right. I rumba in the aisles when the author makes music. I sing it for days and days.

Talk about images and pacing! Rudyard Kipling leads the band.

Rudyard Kipling — Portrait by John Collier 1891

“… Er petticoat was yaller an’ ‘er little cap was green,
An’ ‘er name was Supi-yaw-lat — jes’ the same as Theebaw’s Queen,
An’ I seed her first a-smokin’ of a whackin’ white cheroot,
An’ a-wastin’ Christian kisses on an ‘eathen idol’s foot:
 Bloomin’ idol made o’mud — 
 Wot they called the Great Gawd Budd — 
 Plucky lot she cared for idols when I kissed ‘er where she stud!
 On the road to Mandalay . . .”

(From Kipling’s poem Mandalay, first published in the collection Barrack-Room Ballads, and Other Verses, 892.)

I can trip lightly to that! Can’t you just see her — that Burmese beauty (tootsie?) in her yellow petticoat and her little green cap? She’s kissing Buddha on the foot, until he kisses her where she stood! Kipling drumbeats let us feel his soldier’s nostalgia all the way from there to here as we sashay across the floor.

F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda

When F. Scott realized he loved Zelda, did he lose his mind and leap on a sofa and cry ‘I love her to the moon and back!’ Hell no. No one can dance to that.

(Besides, Tom Cruise, it has no class. )

Here are the words Fitzgerald wrote his friend telling of his heart’s desire for Zelda Sayre. A foreshadowing of the broken trust and suspicions to come their way, the letter is a tango — a slow tango in the dark. And he danced it ’til his death. Flaming self-respect!

“… I fell in love with her courage, her sincerity, and her flaming self respect. And it’s these things I’d believe in, even if the whole world indulged in wild suspicions that she wasn’t all she should be. I love her and it is the beginning of everything. …”

Speaking of dancing in the dark. Poe was the master and his words still haunt. Don’t read them on a moonless night.

Art by Lindsey Kustusch Backyard Raven

“… While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door — 
 Only this and nothing more. …”
From The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

The Addams Family(Television series September 18, 1964 — September 2, 1966)

Oh, yeah. It makes me shiver. I can see Morticia dancing with Gomez now. It’s creepy and it’s kooky, mysterious and spooky. It’s all together ooky.

The woeful music Poe plays is blown through castaway flutes. It drifts on clouds around blood moons and lingers in the air.

And from Poe’s Annabel Lee

“… And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
 Of my darling — my darling — my life and my bride,
 In her sepulchre there by the sea — 
 In her tomb by the sounding sea. …”

We can’t end with haunting and trudging to a dirge. There must be a reason to laugh! Ogden Nash is tuning up now.

Ogden Nash / Frederick S. Wight / Oil on canvas, 1933 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

A Drink With Something in It
A Poem by Ogden Nash

“There is something about a Martini,
A tingle remarkably pleasant;
A yellow, a mellow Martini;
I wish I had one at present.
There is something about a Martini,
Ere the dining and dancing begin,
And to tell you the truth,
It is not the vermouth — 
I think that perhaps it’s the gin.”

We can cha-cha to this all night.

Studio Art

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