—like the afternoon with her spent listening
to Horowitz roll his long fingers over the notes—
listen, like this—
as daylight swung through the trees
and her son slept on
and the blue dog leapt into its blue chair.
As before I was sent home to mimic
on piano what alone I wouldn’t perceive:
chords shapeshifting within chords, their drunken,
muddied bleed, then the crisp, clear song
of the dreamer’s reverie—this one note—broken
or turned sweetly inward, romance of self
with self, awareness stirred
to a plastic empathy.
she said, spreading
her own so wide the silk finger webs pearled, nearly twice the span
of a normal man’s. Listen—
as now the hardest chord is struck, two notes more
than the octave, a reach most have to roll or flub
to protect the joints’ knit,
dazzle the initiate’s ear, float away
even the record’s very spitting
as she places the thorn-shaped needle back
at the measure she wants me to hear—listen—
smoothing down the square of sunlight I want to see
pleated again on her gray dress—
there would be Horowitz’s death to learn about
and then my own, discipline, assassinations, sex
and geology, a love
so often frustrated by lack of work.
But then, listening, didn’t she close her eyes
and dream, perhaps, of the book
she’d never publish and the son
who would never get well?
While I, who have never wanted to be a musician,
assumed the dream of a life
no sorrow could touch, content to linger
within that distance between us.
Listen, she begins, how beautiful—
as the long, foreign fingers, long
dead, curl again over the impossible notes.
Song with Dog and Cemetery
Edward Curtis’ “Good Lance: Oglala”
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