“The Unexpected” (Nureyev, Mother Teresa, the Earth’s Core)


The Unexpected

I aways told myself that I’d only felt it twice – a certain
stardom that makes one stare – not
because the famous face looks as expected – though
it does – but because
of an odd animal magnetism, a charisma that
forestalls the blink away–

on a betel-stained stair in the blare
of Calcutta, glazed by yellowed haze
and rickshaw putter, when
I caught a crinkled glimpse – her face
so deeply wrinkled beneath the
Teresa in the dim chink of open door.

The other – and they conflate – floating
above cream-tight thighs–
panther dancer, Rudolf Nureyev, his shadowed
cheeks hallowing the leap and carry of Romeo
or some Prince.

I stared from the blistered doorstep, the
velvet ledge, of the standing-room only.

On closer view, and even
as Mother Teresa spoke of  the pain of
the unwanted, her lined eyes dark magnets – Nureyev,
his dark eyes lined magnets, pranced
beside her.

How strange the brain–
with its dance of thought and
nature, conditioning
and chemical, ego and
selflessness.   Later, rushing through me
more strongly than the urge to push, came
my personal icons,
outburst stars, babes, whom I watched, even sleeping, hooked
by a magnetism beyond Earth’s core; each moment
an unanticipated leap
of previously unguessed faith.


Yes, it’s a super odd poem.  But, I bet you weren’t expecting it.  I’ve been thinking about Mother Teresa since a poem I wrote last week about very very briefly working at her home for the dying in Calcutta (now Kolkata).  Here’s a very different view, posted for the dVerse Poets Pub, Poetics prompt, on the “Unexpected,” which I am also hosting today. 

Rudolf Nureyev was an incredibly great Russian ballet dancer, from the time of the former Soviet Union.  He was performing in Paris, and escaped the Soviet guards,  becoming a refugee to the West.  He danced for years with the Royal Ballet, as the preferred partner of Margot Fonteyn.  He was such an incredibly charismatic dancer that one (and not just me) really could not look at him when he was on stage.  He was also technically very skilled.  I was lucky to see him perform several times and a couple of times waited backstage and got his autograph!  He died in 1993.  Although the reason for death was not specified at the time of death, his doctor later confirmed that he had had AIDS.  

Check out the wonderful poets at dVerse and, if you have a chance, check out my books!  Poetry, GOING ON SOMEWHERE, (by Karin Gustafson, illustrated by Diana Barco). 1 Mississippi -counting book for lovers of rivers, light and pachyderms, or Nose Dive, a very fun novel that is perfect for a pool or beachside escape.  Nose Dive is available on Kindle for just 99 cents!

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49 Comments on ““The Unexpected” (Nureyev, Mother Teresa, the Earth’s Core)”

  1. claudia Says:

    i love the poem k. – love that you wrote about mother theresa again and yes…the brain does sometimes work in strange ways, makes its own connections where we don’t really see them on first sight..

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks, Claudia. Yes, I’ve been thinking about that a lot since last week. I don’t know if people will remember who Nureyev was. I realize he’s probably lost his fame to some degree by this point. (Too bad!) But at any rate, just went with flow. k.

  2. Cool blog you have here, I like the poems 😀

  3. I remember your poem about Mother Terea K ~ You did a good job of capturing her, vis-a-vis the panther dancer, Nureyev ~ How strange to conjure both images, very imaginative write here ~

  4. This is an amazing write. The brain does indeed work in mysterious ways of how it ‘connects’ different things and puts pieces together in ways which we normally wouldn’t do unless we daydream. The imagery is alive, amongst so many other things, you have captured Mother Teresa’s famous wrinkled face and charisma and, Nureyev’s famous prances. Fabulous write!

  5. Strange also what connections are made, for my wife was at the royal ballet when he was…and let’s just say she escaped his magic lift

  6. This is a poem full of riches….imagine having been to India, seen a rickshaw puller, seen Mother Teresa and gotten Nureyev’s autograph. WOW! I especially love the lines about the newborn babes, “outburst stars”…..”each moment….a leap….of unguessed faith”. Wow, kiddo. Stellar!

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Ha – thanks. I make the most of what I’ve done I’m afraid – it isn’t very much, just that I write about it. But thanks. k.

      • ManicDdaily Says:

        PS – most rickshaws in India then were auto rickshaws – three wheelers – it happens that in Calcutta at that time, there were handpulled rickshaws with running men also, but I only saw that in Calcutta. k.

  7. Mary Says:

    Oh yes, I remember very well Rudolf Nureyev. How wonderful it must have been to see him dance and also to have gotten his autographs. I definitely can still see Mother Theresa’s wrinkled face. (All those years without sunblock in a hot climate!) It definitely was an unexpected poem…but, as you remarked, sometime the mind does unexpected things! Thanks for hosting today, Karin.

  8. I love this – could feel the heart leap at recognition of Mother Theresa, Nureyev and then the last lines. Beautiful K

  9. Dick Jones Says:

    I like very much the way in which the gentle intro leads into the sudden vivid and indeed unexpected instamatic flashes of the two brief encounters and beyond.

  10. Wow …Nureyev and Mother Teresa… what a combo!

  11. nephiriel Says:

    dare i say: you NAILED unexpected. 🙂

    “his dark eyes lined magnets” loved this line…
    amazing poem.

  12. “Unguessed faith”… all those amazing things and then the seemingly everyday of our own family, that they’re just as incredible to us as world renowned icons.

  13. Bodhirose Says:

    Two amazing people and seemingly so far removed from each other…other than in your remembering…blessed to see them both. Yes, I sure do remember Nureyev…he was THE male dancer for years.

  14. Bodhirose Says:

    Gosh, Karin, I just realized that this was your picture that was used in a prompt that I responded to…eons ago…and wrote a short story about…had no idea it was yours until this minute. I don’t think I knew who you were back then. Love your charming elephants…

  15. kaykuala Says:

    Two personalities that I admired and you got to be ‘near’ them on a personal basis. Great write K and thanks for hosting!


  16. hedgewitch Says:

    Your poem instantly had me thinking about what people of charisma share–it often seems to be looks or charm, but pretty sure it actually goes much deeper than this to some core flow of energy, strength and giftedness(for want of a better word.) By conflating these two very different examples, we get a picture of what the extraordinary in humans really is, and how it draws an extraordinary response from us. Really an amazing poem…It is a bit unexpected, but I don’t find it odd at all–there’s a perfect logic to it, and very finely constructed to show it–with the dark lined eyes and magnetism switchoff, and so forth. I have only seem Nureyev dance on film, but he was, indeed, exceptional.

  17. brian miller Says:

    what a coll connection you make between mother theresa and nureyev…our brains do make intersting connections, but between them they were immersed in their dances you know which makes them unavoidable candles to stare into….some very cool experiences you have had…

  18. Yes, very interesting write. I do remember Nureyev. Hadn’t heard the part about aids.

  19. Our brains are wonderful things really! Such an interesting connection between Mother Theresa and Nureyev –magnet eyes–somehow that image itself speaks to the charismatic nature of both figures–Loved this piece

  20. seingraham Says:

    A great poem and a wonderful prompt thanks! This was very interesting and fun …


  21. Ravenblack Says:

    Extraordinary personalities hold our attention, there’s something about them — magnetic as you refer to. Perhaps fascination, admiration, respect.

    Great prompt for poetics by the way. Having fun reading some of the offerings. 🙂

  22. jcosmonewbery Says:

    Quite an unusual take on it, not what I expected at all! Nicely done.

  23. Karin, thank you first of all for this prompt. I’m supposed to be sleeping because I am doing music ministry in the morning, but could NOT resist this one.

    To have even been in the presence of Mother Teresa, let alone working with her mission, a blessing.

    To have caught sight of Nureyev, as I did in his later, frail years – thrilling. Never saw him dance live, but have seen some film. When he made his last public appearance, he was carried onstage like royalty by “bearer boys,” how apropos both in the regal sense and of course the boys! Loved this juxtaposition of the two.

    Peace, Amy, and here’s mine:

  24. dani Says:

    two people anyone would love to have glimpsed!

    thank you for the prompt {and for allowing us to link in an old poem.}

  25. Irene Says:

    The animal/earth magnetism, the lined eyes/magnet juxtaposition – and the leap to faith. The story works by such unexpected turns to a fitting conclusion. A well turned poem!

  26. Sabio Lantz Says:

    Heroes, pilgrimages, idealized fantasies yet full of their own twists, private disappointments and lies. Magnets draw because we want to dream beyond ourselves. Thanks for stirring thoughts.

  27. Super cool unexpected …the last stanza rang esp true …thanks for the amazing prompt

  28. rosross Says:

    a clever and insightful contrast. I lived in India for more than four years and visited some of the order’s orphanages. Sobering.

  29. Fascinating juxtaposition, I like Joy’s comment and find little to add to it. Thank you for the excellent prompt.

  30. Julie Laing Says:

    Thanks again for the great prompt, Karin. Your piece was unexpected–and full of so many great little moments and it seems so many great memories. I think I have only an inkling of what you must feel when you reread it, all of the stories that you’ve funneled into it. And “outburst stars”–fabulous phrase.

  31. kelly Says:

    It’s a fascinating poem, I love the way you build up the stars and then winnow down to the love that really matters most. (Great prompt!)

  32. vbholmes Says:

    “a charisma that
    forestalls the blink away–”

    “I caught a crinkled glimpse – her face
    so deeply wrinkled beneath the

    I like the thought expressed by the first quote and the sound of the second when I read the words aloud. Very nice piece.

  33. Md. Alsanda Says:

    Thanks for passing by.

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