Home > Imprisonment > Petite Morte, a Verse Dance with Captions

Petite Morte, a Verse Dance with Captions

August 5, 2011

by Wendy Vardaman

At the shadowy back of the stage, you can just make out the captivating figures of six black-clad women, hands folded over their wide skirts, while they watch, perfectly still and expressionless, six saber-rattling men leap, spin, lean into their blades.

You wonder which holds up the other, fabric or flesh. And then they appear in front of their clothes—abandon their stiffness—come to life, legs exposed.

The dresses, it turns out, neither alive nor inanimate, remain upright, uninhabited by their former prisoners; each bell-shaped skirt, a black glass jar or bird’s cage covered by black cloth to quiet inconvenient singing, awaits its captive’s return.

They run in circles on the stage—men and women, hard to tell who’s chasing whom, no signs of capitulation from either side. Without their skirt-cages to hold them, the women keep up, but the dresses creep closer, too, sidle this way and that, looking for the right moment, for signs of weakness, fatigue, inattention, to launch a recapture.


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Wendy Vardaman (website) has a Ph.D. from University of Pennsylvania. Co-editor of Verse Wisconsin and the author of Obstructed View (Fireweed Press, 2009), she works for a children’s theater, The Young Shakespeare Players, in Madison, Wisconsin. Her essays & interviews have appeared in Poetry Daily and Poets.org, among others.

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  1. November 22, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Strikingly well executed piece!!

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