Breathing at the symphony


I. Brahms

She told us that there are many ways to listen to music
shoes off
with every mode and resolution
quiet forgetfulness
percussive wonder
participation in the spirit and in the body

She played us Brahms
I tried to laugh along with her
pointing out the darkness
and the dozen spots of light
that were splashed on the canvas
she said, of time
or was it of our heart?

She said that Western music, all Western music
is about tension and release, tension and release
and I thought what else? what else is it about
because I can’t sit here in the symphony hall with this too simple form
and expect to be freed

I need shadows blurring into the night
hemiolas that blink at me and shudder
light vanishing when it smacks against the wall
voices, eyes, and poundings
that know how far I’ve come
and how hard my heart is hurting

because not like waves returning to the shore
or rivers returning at last to the sea
does my heart
do our hearts
move through time within us

I need the one that holds his hand to the small light of a candle
growing, sliding off its wick, reemerging
and carries it to stillness
letting its last drops fall
the hush of unrest
the crisp of a final moment

If Brahms’ tears don’t spill into mine I have no use for them

II. November 

My love is like a silver fish, I thought
last night, when the symphony music
was swelling, shuddering with tears
dripping down its scales.

III. 37, c minor

We must have compassion for the pianist when, after the notes come in torrents then fall like blossoms caught in the orchard wind then tremble underneath a sky of naked stars, he takes four long breaths. We must cultivate this silence, breathe with him in the holiness of this moment, of relief and of regret, maybe, before his hands find the piano again, and he sounds the other-worldly but still homeward-bending tones of another movement.