'A dance to be done'
by Dan Chelotti
There is magic in decay.
A dance to be done
For the rotting, the maggot strewn
Piles of flesh which pile
Upon the dung-ridden earth
And the damp that gathers
And rusts and defiles.
There is a bit of this
In even the most zoetic soul —
The dancing child’s arms
Flailing to an old ska song
Conduct the day-old flies
Away to whatever rank
Native is closest. Just today
I was walking along the river
With my daughter in my backpack
And I opened my email
On my phone and Duffie
Had sent me a poem
Called “Compost.” I read it
To my little girl and started
To explain before I was three
Words in Selma started
Yelling, Daddy, Daddy, snake!
In the path was a snake,
Belly up and still nerve-twitching
The ghost of some passing
Bicycle or horse. Pretty, Selma said.
Yes, I said. And underneath my yes
Another yes, the yes to my body,
Just beginning to show signs
Of slack, and another, my grasping
In the dark for affirming flesh
That in turn says yes, yes
Let’s rot together but not until
We’ve drained what sap
Is left in these trees.
And I wake in the morning
And think of the coroner
Calling to ask what color
My father’s eyes were,
And I asked, Why? Why can’t
You just look — and the coroner,
Matter-of-factly says, Decay.
Do you want some eggs, my love?
I have a new way of preparing them.
And look, look outside, I think this weather
Has the chance of holding.
by Dan Chelotti
Poem as Friend to Alice
In this episode of our podcast, you will hear Alice talking about the poem that has been a friend to her: ’Compost' by Dan Chelotti.
We are delighted to feature 'Compost' in this episode and would like to thank Dan Chelotti, Poetry Foundation, Poetry Magazine and Greying Ghost Press for granting permission to use the poem. Do visit them for further inspiration and to find out more about Dan and his work.
Alice visited The Poetry Exchange at Greyfriar's Chapel in Canterbury, as part of Wise Words Festival in September 2014. We’re very grateful to Wise Words for hosting The Poetry Exchange.
Alice is in conversation with The Poetry Exchange team members, Fiona Lesley Bennett and Michael Shaeffer.
'Compost' is read by Michael Shaeffer.
ABOUT THE POETRY EXCHANGE
We talk to people about the poem that has been a friend to them.
In exchange we create a gift for them, a bespoke reading of their chosen poem inspired by the conversation. Our award-winning podcast shares these unique and powerful stories of connection with people across the world.
We set up an intimate environment for these conversations at festivals, in arts, cultural and public spaces across the country. We also hold exchanges ‘long distance’. Our visitors come from all walks of life and we also feature well-known personalities such as Andrew Scott, Maxine Peake, Roy McFarlane and Paterson Joseph.