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Tangofugue


ISSUE:  Summer 2010

What miracle is left to believe? Perhaps if I picked up a violin
And played Bach’s partita in G minor with my untrained hands,
I’d hear the world a new way, my fingertips whirling into ears.

If there can be no poetry after Auschwitz, there can be no music, either.
Only Paul Celan may compose, his “Deathfugue” first called “Deathtango.”
The Nazis loved tangos and had them played outside the gas chambers.

Celan wanted to infect the German tongue with an illness it could endure
But not survive, like mortality. But would he revoke all his poetry
If it would undo the Holocaust? What if word of that miracle reached our ears?

We want to love, but can we endure the love that orders Dante’s cosmos?
It was said Dante never laughed. Giotto certainly painted him that way.
Dante’s heaven is without tears or laughter, a mansion of cold chambers.

Oh, you’re getting too serious, says Messiaen, whose quartets are canopied
With the raucous calls of birds of paradise and shall outlive eternity,
For time’s a rhythm, and the wilder our songs, the sooner they reach God’s ears.

Strange how miracles never happen within the temple, but always nearby.
God sits on a straw mat beside the cripple, listening to his stories,
Rubbing the man’s feet with oil while priests kneel in the holy chambers.

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