Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tai Chi in 4 Movements

digital manipulation (ralph murre) of garment embroidery (artist unknown)

Tai Chi in 4 Movements
by Jackie Langetieg

I.  The Beginning

The teacher wears black and white,
light in opposition to dark--the symbol
for yin and yang.  Unknowingly
over half the group does, too,
I don’t feel as fat as I dreaded.

The warm-up is just camouflaged exercise,
but the sparkling day bribes me to enjoy it.
My hibernated muscles stretch stubbornly
I’m awkward--an elephant trying to be a jaguar.

II. The Form

My body tries to forget itself
return to the rhythm of nature.
I walk heavy, like a bear,
filled with bear power.

My chest is a box, my spine a string of pearls
connected to the universe.  I shift my weight
to the left foot, my right arm lifts on the kiss
of a breeze--weight
an anachronism of no weight.

Practice anything, she says in today’s farewell--
even if it’s wrong.  Next time you’ll have something
to correct. 

She didn’t check my form, touch my leg.
Am I already perfect?
Or has she deferred to the old bear instead--
left it to its lost causes.

III.  The Practice

I am in the barefoot dark--I step out cautiously
turning my right foot, stepping strongly on my left heel
settling into my balance.
I loosen my belly’s tension, turn my head,
pulling it past stiff neck muscles
rigid prisoners of my clenched jaw.
Just when foot is firm and body balanced--
the lean in to the wind thrilling as an untried lover--
a new direction is demanded.
Practice.  I don’t know where my balance
will meet my movement. Practice.
Start again in the familiar footfall,
leaning out,
feeling the sweet soul-kiss of new space made mine.

IV.  Animal Frolics

Resting deer, walking deer
fall back
swing arm--not able to think like a deer
because I’m watching the teacher.

I close my eyes and become the deer,
drift through dark
                                pull back
                                        listen for danger
                                                 press forward.
The pond wears its cool scent--
I walk on small boned hooves toward marsh grass,
ears up, tongue on the roof of my mouth,
jaw relaxed.

Each cool Tai Chi morning
of these storm-surrounded days remains perfect.
My garlic and brewers yeast discourage lazy mosquitoes.
Perhaps another night I’ll become a mosquito,
bite the deer, take her heart into my own,
and fly through the woods bending and pawing the earth.

~ first published by The Wisconsin Academy for Science, Arts, and Letters