Sarah Riggs

Translations from Dance
for Aya Nabih


Quickened on the leg so permanent excellent
We have banished the word “perfect” from dancing here
And so told the exercises to the left hedonistically
It was for you and for you the half of it
Language through a sieve or heightened container so
The leg, don’t forget the leg, the other one (of three)
You side-saddle the questions figure it so side saddled
Step, step, step and again (the language of flowers)
Body and soul conversed, traversed, there crossed
Couldn’t keep count: a woman was dancing Maya
Dance flowers in a permanent exchange hollow
Mystified by the columnular setting queer queer
Is good and L. walked along that line
There was never just one, never even a line

The topical reminder to be & to write about dance
Free, free the movers cross the ground (floor stage)
Throw into gesture back and forward are not simple
Out of element finding what one can do
She flew back and forth to encounter the contours
Of her body. Sink, avenue and horse. Skin
Into this bag of rejections a sort of truth hung
Quick, bark, fellow and happened, yellow matter
Pull, pull, to the left, in syncopation, together
They were fleeting, ringing, to the right
Coming around into some sort of middle position
What was back there circling around (age age)
Until one couldn’t forget, the slow rising body
That which they sidestepped markedly hollow

(what they wanted to say about the body
was not to forget it, abuse it, or judge it. A
kind of listening in order to tame the abuses).
Such was what I was thinking at the time,
maybe. (It was this: the thinking was doing
a kind of dance and for the body to be in synch
with that rather than resisting or being bashed
around). There wasn’t a feeling of freedom of
moving outside what the body or thought could
do, rather that the the two could “moving” together
create a feeling of freedom, which is to say, self-
knowing. Who has thought about this,
“the movement of thought”? the physical
manifestations of wild thinking



a form in the freedom of the kind: orange
and a ration in the stupor of momentum: Clarinda
a forthcoming resolution of how: tapered
and a terrible removal of speed: vanity
a quickening pick of sloth: team
and a formidable shunning of nothing: brazen
a quirky removal of hands: none
and a bottle of liquid dreams: ferment
a solid reminder of feet: sky
and a rationless giving at sun: night
a technical removal of thought: body
and a forcible conditioning of ice: sliding
a thicker container of words: fingers
and a breaching of the mind-body dilemna: improv

a thorough narrows through the cracks: feet
assembly of people and syllables: tenuous
frozen hallway of temperate cacti: thorns
suggestive tint of alley: deciduous

into and out of frequently demanding: fingerprint
forgotten shuttle thick wayward: stamp
the bifurcated trickery of lens: Nebraska
well-meaning divisions of languages: polyglot

tremendous inculcations of dough: putrefaction
foreign and traded submissions: left
torn meals and homeless signs: articulate
forever training the summer lids: closure

melting and assuming late tendencies: love
the hollow and rendered clothes: scarecrow
a talented quickening at the lens: teardrop
under the qualitative formidable: q-tips

where figurine hours and tickets: shaven
drop to school and rotation blankly: crossed T’s
the melting and surrendering: economy
how virulent and costly the sky: plastic

wished booklets and some teeth: traffic
fortunately applicable the swaying: highways
lifts and dumb bells frought with politics: no
queenly coffees and tapas: she is coming
forgiveness to the drop and drip: terrific
or humble either way voting: formidable
costly in the byways her determination: yes
tinkling possibility of connectivity: on

the way of things, there in that shaft: split
hollow and constitutative, falling away: thorough
foaming and colloquial, last impressions: it
tossed about in universes, one last one: planet
thoroughly removed from that canon: torrential
harvested and kindly, a referendum: drachma
lastly surrendered and remarkable: starlight
the worsted individual, swinging in that: tree

fermenting in the hearing of it: ear strangeness
the crosswords rocked in an embrace: next door
quickly the fox sand shore and now this: street
definitely roaming, she asked her: archivist
and a revolutionary stir, coming under the door: Lispector
under and next to and around, released: moment


These words emerge out of working with dancers and writers together, and looking for ways for language to be visceral, to forge it fresh so that it's not limp with familiar yawning language: manifest not in an eviseration from the senses, since no such abstract language exists, but in corporal translations, spirals and colons of dynamic being, which is all there is, alongside trees.

Sarah Riggs

Sarah Riggs is a writer and artist, born in New York where she is now based, after having spent over a decade in Paris.  Before directing Six Lives: A Cinepoem, she produced The Tangier 8 at the Cinémathèque de Tanger in Morocco, which was screened at the Berlin Film Festival and the Tate Modern Museum among other international venues. She is the author of five books of poetry in English:Waterwork (Chax, 2007), Chain of Minuscule Decisions in the Form of a Feeling (Reality Street, 2007), 60 Textos (Ugly Duckling, 2010), Autobiography of Envelopes (Burning Deck, 2012), and Pomme & Granite(1913 Press, 2015) which won a 1913 poetry prize. She is the author of the book of essays Word Sightings: Poetry and Visual Media in Stevens, Bishop, & O’Hara (Routledge, 2002), and has translated and co-translated six books of contemporary French poetry into English, including most recently Oscarine Bosquet’s Present Participle (La Presse).  She is the director of the international arts organization Tamaas ( which has ongoing projects in performance, translation, and artistic collaboration in Morocco and France. She is also a member of the bilingual poetry association Double Change ( Sarah Riggs is currently teaching at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn after years of teaching at the NYU and Columbia programs in Paris, and before that at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she got her Ph.D. in literature. Inspired by filming the dance of Stéphane Bouquet, choreographed by Mathilde Monnier for the Essaouira section of Six Lives, she did a residency on a Casablanca rooftop mixing film, dance and poetry with La Source du Lion