It's a retelling in voice and movement of a tale from the North-west coast people of Canada and America of how Raven accidentally finds all the light of all the world hidden inside a series of boxes by the Old Man of the Woods and his daughter.
At first I thought I would have a recording of me saying this poem, before I began the dance. But I realize it really only works to have it told live - a recorded telling detracts from the whole thing. I have a fear of my mind going blank and not being able to remember the words. Even though I am a live story teller - as opposed to someone who reads stories aloud from books - I only remember the outline of the story and tell it each time in the words that come in the moment. Learning something word-for-word is a very different way of using the memory. But the effort of reciting the poem again and again has made me think again about some of it, so I have slightly re-worked it.
Here's the revised version of it. And if anyone happens to be in Oxford on Saturday evening, it's taking place in the studio theatre at Brooke's University on Headington Hill.
Raven Steals the Light
Raven travels into the unknown
Greedy for experience.
On and on he flies.
He almost turns back.
In his greed he is devoured,
Eaten down into the long, black
Hold of a human womb.
For nine breathes he floats on the ninth wave,
Labouring over his desire.
He slides forth from his biding place.
And there is more – oh so much more-
Than he ever thought to seek.
A secret treasure that he must uncover.
He works. Oh he works! To hold that bauble.
For half a year he weeps himself hoarse
With longing for this hidden thing,
Each day a small uncovering.
Until, finally – oh who can withstand his beseeching? –
It is there, singing its glory.
All the Light of all the world.
And it is his!!!!!
It burns, oh it burns him black.
But it is his, his alone.
His great beak was made for this.
He snatches the wondrous light.
Gloating, he floats aloft.
Who knew the sky was blue
Until Raven flew up with the light?
Who knew the beauty of the green Earth below
Until the Light bathed it?
Who knew the perfection of their beloved’s face
Until eyes could behold it?
That cheeky, greedy rascal brought
All this from its hidden place.
His voice cracks for the wonder of it all.
And he drops it
It falls, gone from him.
The broken fragments rebound to their allotted places
And Raven dances his triumph forever
Between Sun and Moon and Stars.
For half the year the Old Man takes it back,
Piece by piece.
But Raven’s weeping always turns the tide
And the Light always returns.