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Serenade for Winds


ISSUE:  Spring 1990

We know life so little that it is very little in our power to
 distinguish right from wrong, just from unjust, and to
 say that one is unfortunate because one suffers, which
 has not been proved.
Van Gogh, to his brother Theo and
 sister-in-law Jo.

Clustered beside the road are a van,
pick-up, two sedans. In another season
we might imagine hunters tracking deer
or lugging sixpacks away from their wives.
But the Seal of State on one door warns
a new fact has burned its brand on the landscape.

From the vacant truck a radio plays
Mozart into the summer breeze.
Now an oboe floats above
the bass of bassoon, a clarinet
lures the horn to join
this conversation on the waves.

We have stopped to check the map
but might believe that only this
was why we drove for hours—
leaves lifted in a freshet,
all else forgotten and offstage
when air and music are one.

In the forest a trooper stops
a witness from cutting the rope
with his knife. Procedures require
cameras and tape, a careful report.
A man’s body, halted by noose
and gravity, slowly swings
from the maple’s limb.
In an hour or two a wife
and elder son will try
through taut jaw to say
they’re not surprised, blame him,
the State, or bank, or all.

Only a few bars remain.
Cut him down. Let him drop
on the layered leaves.
The notes rise into the silence of air
through which the body must descend.

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