Dancing with Shiva
Originally published in the February 2013 issue of Empirical
I have seen Shiva lately, dancing through the world
In a bright spinning blur like the blades of a harvester.
I have seen him on the freeway in the spinning of wheels
As I ride glassy-eyed to another intrusion.
I have seen him in the hospital in the resolute faces,
And we danced down the halls to the click of a gurney
As I watched ceiling tiles flash by in time
Until he stopped, open-armed, and hovered above me
In the cold bright lights of the operating room.
I have felt his quick hands in the surgeon’s blade,
And I still taste his breath in the poisons that carried me
Lifeless and limp to the door of his realm,
Only to let me fall, tumbling and reeling,
Back down to earth.
Then the dark dance led me to his inner sanctum
Where smiling acolytes in blue scrubs
Brought me to sit before the high priest
With the sacred stethoscope hung on his neck
And robed in a long white coat.
And the high priest, stern but not unkind,
Warned of the dangers of dancing with Shiva:
You may be healed, he said, but at a cost,
For the god of destruction will demand a sacrifice.
You will fast, and purge, and become a hollow shell,
And still he may take every strand of your hair,
And even the marrow of your bones.
But there is hope in the juxtaposition
Of opposites in this dance,
Where the kind-hearted nurse gently and carefully
Pumps poison into my veins,
And cheerful attendants burn me with dark rays,
For the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
So I go through the motions, spinning and reeling,
Following every step in this dance of destruction,
Struggling to hold on to equilibrium
As Shiva leads me from poison to poison,
Carefully balanced between sickness and death
As if dancing on the edge of a blade.
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