The Dancer upon Bald Hill
A poem about finding the divine in that which has burned away

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Janaka took a walk yesterday.

He walked on land
where deer laid down among tall grass,
where hares hid and nibbled,
where mice scurried amongst oak leaves
weary of hawks’ eyes.

Yet, yesterday he stained his pants
with the ashes of those memories.

This verdant world had become no more,
colored by the black hand
of the Dancer who destroyed it all.


Shiva had danced his dance,
holding a firebrand in one of his thousand hands.

He laughed, chuckled
at his friend, Vishnu
who stooped down amidst the flames,
covering seeds with his golden hands,
awaiting patiently for the dance to end.

And with a hop and a twist and a leap of joy
the dance upon Bald Hill ended,
and off Shiva skipped to another home.

Vishnu called to his friend, Brahma
to draw forth what Vishnu held in his hands.

And Janaka saw the green sprouts
amidst the black
and heard Brahma’s grunts and groans as he labored.

And he heard, carried upon the wind,
the laughter and the chuckles of the Dancer

— Janaka Stagnaro

Commentary: This poem came to me when I was hiking by myself in Oregon, at a wildlife refuge near Corvallis. I often walked this trail throughout the various seasons, enjoying its many faces. This day, however, was quite a shock seeing the devastation that a fire had done to so much of the land. Yet before I started to feel overwhelmed by the devastation, thinking especially of the many little animals that had lost their lives, the image of Shiva dancing came into my imagination. And no more did I feel sorrow but bliss. In the Holy Hindu Trinity (the male aspect of it, that is) there is Shiva the Destroyer, constantly doing his dance of destruction; Brahma the Creator with his four heads, ever-creating; and Vishnu the Preserver, ever watchful to find things worthy of being preserved. To live a balanced life one needs to worship all three of these powers. In order for anything to be born into a new stage, there has to be destruction, and all that is worthy of being held onto one needs to protect, yet realizing that eventually, it will come to an end, so as not to be attached. Knowing when to use each Power is the tricky part.

Thank you for reading this excerpt from my book, Beyond the Beyond: Poems to My Beloved Self. I chose this poem that I wrote many years ago due to the raging fires in the western part of the U.S. Here in California my family and I have evacuated once a couple of weeks ago. We returned last week and now the air is filled with smoke again as another fire burns in the wilderness not too far away south of us. Fire is a cleansing, and my country and many places around the world is going through a great burning. Which is affecting all the world. Out of destruction, new birth will come, while hopefully the good will be preserved.

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