Our leaders dancing for our votes reminds me of a poem Michael Ondaatje wrote called The Elimination Dance. A version of this dance appears in cultures and countries around the world.
The rules are that a caller shouts out particular categories of people or people who have undergone a particular experience. When you are called you must leave the dance floor immediately.
There is no hidden political message – apart from the last line … and the silly part of myself that wishes they would all get off the stage – it was just an excuse to use the composite picture I just made and because I thought the poem might charm and delight some of you.
The quotes in the beginning are placed by Ondaatje himself in the original poem:
Elimination Dance (an intermission) by Michael Ondaatje
‘Nothing I’d read prepared me for a body this unfair’
‘Toll we be roten, kan we not rypen’
Those who are allergic to the sea
Those who have resisted depravity
Men who shave off beards in stages, pausing to take photographs
American rock stars who wear Toronto Maple Leaf hockey sweaters
Those who (while visiting a foreign country) have lost the end of a Q-tip in their ear and have been unable to explain their problem
Gentlemen who have placed a microphone beside a naked woman’s stomach after lunch and later, after slowing down the sound considerably, have sold these noises on the open market as whale songs
All actors and poets who spit into the first row while they perform
Men who fear to use an electric lawn-mower feeling they could drowse off and be dragged by it into a swimming pool
Any dinner guest who has consumed the host’s missing contact lens along with the dessert
Any person who has had the following dream. You are in a subway station of a major city. At the far end you see a coffee machine. You put in two coins. The Holy Grail drops down. Then blood pours into the chalice.
Any person who has lost a urine sample in the mail
All those belle-lettrists who feel that should have been ‘an urine sample’
Anyone who has had to step into an elevator with all of the Irish Rovers
Those who have filled in a bilingual and confidential pig survey from Statistics Canada. (Une enquệte sur les porcs, strictement confidentielle)
Those who have written to the age old brotherhood of Rosicrucians for a free copy of their book ‘The Mastery of Life’ in order to release the inner consciousness and to experience (in the privacy of the home) momentary flights of consciousness
Those who have accidentally stapled themselves
Anyone who has been penetrated by a mountie
Any university professor who has danced with a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Jean Genet
Those who have unintentionally locked themselves within a sleeping bag at a camping goods store
Any woman whose i.u.d. has set off an alarm system at the airport
Those who, after a swim, find the sensation of water dribbling out of their ears erotic
Men who have never touched a whippet
Women who gave up the accordian because of pinched breasts
Those who have pissed out of the back of moving trucks
Those who have woken to find the wet footprints of a peacock across their kitchen floor
Anyone whose knees have been ruined as a result of performing sexual acts in elevators
Those who have so much as contemplated the possibility of creeping up to one’s enemy with two Bic lighters, pressing simultaneously the butane switches— one into each nostril— and so gassing him to death
Literary critics who have swum the Hellespont
Anyone who has been hired as a ‘professional beater’ and frightened grouse in the direction of the Queen Mother
Any lover who has gone into a flower shop on Valentine’s Day and asked for clitoris when he meant clematis
Those who have come across their own telephone numbers underneath terse insults or compliments in the washroom of the Bay Street Bus Terminal
Those who have used the following techniques of seduction:
-small talk at a falconry convention
-entering a spa town disguised as Ford Madox Ford
-making erotic rotations of the pelvis, backstage, during the storm scene of King Lear
-underlining suggestive phrases in the prefaces of Joseph Conrad
Anyone who has testified as a character witness for a dog in a court of law
Any writer who has been photographed for the jacket of a book in one of the following poses: sitting in the back of a 1956 Dodge with two roosters; in a tuxedo with the Sydney Opera House in the distance; studying the vanishing point on a jar of Dutch Cleanser; against a gravestone with dramatic back lighting; with a false nose on; in the vicinity of Macchu Pichu; or sitting in a study and looking intensely at one’s own book
The person who borrowed my Martin Beck thriller, read it in a sauna which melted the glue off the spine so the pages drifted to the floor, stapled them together and returned the book, thinking I wouldn’t notice
Any person who has burst into tears at the Liquor Control Board
Anyone with pain
8 thoughts on “Because I thought it might brighten your day”
Hmm, pretty weird stuff, but maybe the people left standing would be so unique they would be great rulers…
Yeah but it’s a pity to lose those who have been penetrated by a Mountie and especially those who ruined their knees through sex acts in an elevator … those would have been useful experiences to prepare someone for politics, yes? How is parent24?
Clearly I need to get out more – or if I’m going to stay in, be more adventureous!
Resist depravity, Jen … then you too will be called off the dance floor … and if that is too hard, continue to resist touching a whippet … hmm, that only applies to men – okay, I admit it is a peculiar poem, but I love how playful it is … and I love the pic of Helen Z dancing …
It is a ridiculous pic, and I’m happy not to have seen it in motion. But then Jacob Zuma doesn’t look any less so.
Totally, Chris … I can only look at it through my fingers, like a child watching something particularly embarrassing on TV …
The poem is lovely: each sentence so evocative. I particularly liked the pissing out the back of the moving truck, and was reminded of Harold Strachan’s wonderful prison biography called “Make a skyf my mate” (or something similar) when he describes pissing out a small hole in the back of a prison van onto the windscreen of the following cop car, whose driver puts on the windscreen wipers while staring upwards trying to figure out how rain is falling out of a blue sky. Of course it’s funnier the way he tells it.