To Dance on Sands

Marta Becket is her own best friend, and her splendid autobiography suggests that's how it should be for anybody who fancies herself an artist, dancer, painter, composer, or writer -- all of which, not coincidentally, Ms. Becket happens to be. Beyond mere autobiography, To Dance on Sands: The Life and Art of Death Valley's Marta Becket, examines the ascetic lifestyle she chose and all its attendant self-sacrifices (including, for many years, love).

I first wrote about Ms. Becket and her work last March in my post "Are You Saved?" The subject of Todd Robinson's exquisite documentary Amargosa, Ms. Becket is a New York City-born dancer who almost 40 years ago found herself smack-dab in the middle of some of the most godforsaken territory imaginable -- Death Valley Junction, California -- and never left. Ms. Becket, who turns 82 on August 9th, doesn't rely on the town's population (depending on your source, somewhere between two and twenty) to come see her dance, however. As in Field of Dreams, people come from around the world to witness what she has created. Death Valley Junction is her Iowa cornfield, and the amazing Amargosa Opera House is her baseball diamond.

Fans of Amargosa expecting To Dance on Sands to be fat with tales of her life in Death Valley may be disappointed, as it occupies only a single chapter. What comes before details the road traveled to get there, a path that proved that dancing wasn't her only means of expression, and the decisions rendered along the way that ultimately determined the route she took. Ms. Becket's story is a fascinating and compelling one, so much so that the occasionally clunky writing style is forgiven. What she's writing about rises above any such shortcomings, and provides a handbook for anybody interested in art and the space it occupies in our lives.

Throughout her own life, Ms. Becket again and again confronts the question whether or not it is right for an artist to expect so much of one's self at the expense of others. (While she painted the magnificent mural that graces her beloved opera house, her husband,whose love and devotion was always somewhat suspect, felt neglected and sought attention elsewhere.) She asks if what she does is "necessary" and wonders whether she might have been happier as "someone ordinary."

Marta Becket asks the questions that all artists must ask themselves. Given her life and accomplishments, the answers are contained within her fine book.

  • Current Music
    "Maimed Happiness" by the New York Dolls
The Glow For the Duchess

A Half-finished Dedication

And every time my faith is dead,
I see your words inside my head,
"Still, if it hurts,
you go ahead and write it."
By your taunting stare, my soul lives on,
every breath and every song,
my poetry upon your faith depended.
I feel our kinship like a prayer,
you're forever gone, forever there,
lurking in the depths of every lyric.
We challenge and misunderstand,
we force eachother to defend each feeling.
Then this is growth and this is life,
the cycle of dream-birthing strife,
and from our war we bring a new creation.
The stilted rhymes, the stretching dance,
if I have even half a chance,
it's because you always tell me,
"This is better."
The Glow For the Duchess

(no subject)

Through this...

with time we all heal.
It is a never proposition
of a where we might hide.
I believe the lies you tell your psychiatrist
reflect the quiet death of your opposition to the darkness you wish to believe was born with you.
In the mirror, you wish his face above your shoulder,
but he cannot be so cruel.
So long as you love him, he can have none of you,
and three thousand suns will burn out their lives
before you relinquish your love.
i can be a writer

(no subject)


I don't believe the radio stations
of Russia and America
but I like the music and I like
the solemn European voices announcing jazz
I don't believe in opium or money
though they're hard to get
and punished with long sentences
I don't believe in love
in the midst of my slavery I
do not believe
I am sitting in a house
on a treeless Argolic island
I will forget the grass of my mother's lawn
I know I will
I will forget the old telephone number
Fitzroy seven eight two oh
I will forget my style
I will have no style
I hear a thousand miles of hungry static
and the old clear water eating rocks
I hear the bells of mules eating
I hear the flowers eating the night
under their folds
Now a rooster with a razor
plants the haemophilia gash across
the soft black sky
and now I know for certain
I will forget my style
Perhaps a mind will open in this world
perhaps a heart will catch rain
Nothing will heal and nothing will freeze
but perhaps a heart will catch rain
America will have no style
Russia will have no style
It is happening in the twenty-eighth year
of my attention
I don't know what will become
of the mules with their lady eyes
or the cold clear water
or the giant rooster
The early morning greedy radio eats
the governments one by one the languages
the poppy fields one by one
Beyond the numbered band
a silence develops for every style
for the style I laboured on
an external silence like the space
between insects in a swarm
electric unremembering
and it is aimed at us
(I am sleepy and frightened)
it is upon us brothers

- L. Cohen.
The Glow For the Duchess

Sometimes, I write just because it makes me glad that I can...

Remember how I left you
pale in the morning light
weeping sweet
and into the night
day’s soft answer cut right through

Now in fever have I walked
these many days of
broken faith
in dark I stole love
and in earth’s cradle was rocked.

The ancient graves lie open
what do we bury?
The guilt ours.
And will you carry
this bitter game’s last token?

Through dark skies the moon is stalked
cold and gentle dove
takes no faith
you felt the night’s shove
In your sick dreams long you talked.

Once again the curse bites true,
and the truth seals tight.
What is sweet?
and can this be right?
that the day ends without you?
The Glow For the Duchess

The curious nature of pain,

it's habit of crawling into the cracks,
working it's way unnoticed through the system,
corrupting, subborning,
incurable because undiscovered, so that, suddenly,
between bathing,
and bed, it occurs to the victim...

Scotland is very far away.
i can be a writer

(no subject)

So we make no rules and what happens is that nobody talks.
If there were rules prodding people in the spine with sharktooth-like objects, maybe people would talk.
Myself included.

There's a new member.

You're being watched.

I found a mystery poem in a mystery book.
I wrote this once, I mustve been drunk because I have no recollection of writing it.

I've sung to turned backs unravelled myself to string lines of harsh-veined poetry
They've worn my skin to the opera, I followed in tow, More than naked, fanning them with their own eyelashes
And the meat on my bones I would lay on wet pavement like a noble cloak protecting their lightly touching down feet
A skeleton in the rain
Some have taken, others refused my services.
  • Current Music
    my wife my children my childen my wife
The Glow For the Duchess

she bleeds

from the cracks beneath the right hand's dirty, grimy, bitten-down finger nails,
and is very cold tonight.
when she was younger, she asked questions that had answers,
and so believed,
that the vampire games we all play with the windows when we're afraid,
were ended-eternal stalemates-at dawn.
now she knows. and fears the sun as well.
cancer swelling up, three times the charm.
The Glow For the Duchess

confessing my muse in darker agonies of bliss, tonight. i'm alone.

She descends like a prism-shattered star.
You know her face-in what she believes were better days it was carved into a million chunks of marble, but the paints were long gone from those, and this - she is colour itself.
There is no love in those piercig eyes, those lips, the high, broad cheeks, she is passionless, meant only to stir passions.
Her hair is the coursing flame of a river, and she is garbed in living cloth, a million tiny, adoring creatures clinging to her skin, their rainbow-hued wings fluttering occasionally as they seek to maintain their balance, their grip as she lifts a limb, commanding.
Her lips part, and that one fraction of a second is every agony of anticipation - excitement and dread, horror and torturous desire - upon which the beads of your nights hang.

And she speaks.
And your soul begins to sing its dying song of purest pain.
And BEAUTY reigns supreme.