Site Meter Peculiar Susceptibility: dance dance immolation

Sunday, July 1, 2007

dance dance immolation

I've been batting about the idea for some time now to write a series of poems on the topic of immolation. It's a fairly broad topic, but I had, until today, assumed that it would be generally somber in tone.

I was interested in contrasting protest immolation:

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with sati (a Hindu mourning tradition that involves the immolation of new widows):

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As I was doing research this morning, I stumbled across something called Dance Dance Immolation! Apparently it's a version of the popular dancing game, only instead of losing points for bad dancing, you're met with a blast from a flamethrower. Granted, participants wear fire-resistent gear, but still. Flamethrowers blasting at your body!? Wonders never cease.

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Goodness, me. Now I have a dance dance immolation poem dancing through my head. I'll post a draft later this week.


Meghan Maguire Dahn said...


We donned them first—
those fire-safe suits, complete
with helmet and gloves and little
booties for our shoes—
like we were in some kind of biosphere,
like the world for us to touch was only that half-inch
between skin and suit.
It’s hot, for us, in the hot
Nevada sun. What sort of people
wear fire-safe suits in the desert?
Us, that’s who, because we’re hot and unafraid.

You. Yes, you writing us.
would be too scared to do what we’re about to.
You wouldn’t put your body into this suit. Hell—
you’d be hard pressed, even,
to attend Burning Man. You’d worry
that there would be no corner for solitude.

Look on us: we’re hot and unafraid.
(And sweating.)

The program generates the music—
the music of code—IF 120 beats per minute THEN.
We start dancing, slowly,
at first. The screen displays a map
of where and for how long to place our feet.
It’s bad enough, passive-
aggressive poet, that you put
words into my voice, that you use
my voice as a vehicle for your concerns. Leave
the notion of dancing out of it. Even now,
you’re about to quote William Carlos Williams (no ideas
but in things)—See?

You want to ask if it’s really dancing
when we follow the coded decisions
of a machine. You want me to answer
with another question: What was dance,
ever, but a prescribed series of steps? Or,
you say, some vertical knowledge of horizontal urges.

• • •

There is no room in Dance
Dance Immolation for this heady debate
and my protagonist (who had been trying
to avoid the fact of his singular place
in time, his particular position
in space, through the employment
of the first person plural) missteps
(the orders come faster, now) and receives
a flame gun blast to the face. Two seconds,
timed precisely. It seems,
during the blast, longer to him. But after—
after he has stepped down from the make-shift stage, after
he has peeled back that outer layer,
his own clothes a second skin, sweat-bound
to his body—after all of that
it seemed to have gone by in what he would later tell
his friends was a blink of the eye.

Readers, let me tell you what I imagine:
he didn’t blink. He, first, squeezed
shut his eyes against the onslaught of flames
and then forced them open to watch
as the flames rolled across the mask’s unnatural surface.
He squinted them shut again only after the sweat
filled his eyes, half relief, half punishment.

He’s right about me.
I wouldn’t do what he has done.

I could write, now, that what motivates
me away from Dance Dance Immolation
is some kind of ideological disgust, but really
that’s what would keep me form developing
the program, not from participating in it. No,
what stops me is nerves: the idea
that people would watch. The idea
that I have no rhythm. The idea
that I would sweat then appear sweaty
as I walked to my change of clothes.

The idea, now,
that I could fall prey to someone else’s poem.

Amaranta said...

People should read this.

Meghan Maguire Dahn said...

Thanks for reading.

I had actually completely forgotten that I posted the draft of the poem. Looking back now, much later, there are some obvious things I would revise (there's part of me, for instance, that thinks it would make a much better short story or essay, or something prose-y).