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String Quartet

ISSUE:  Winter 1994


Festung Concert, Salzburg
for Pete

Then they were seized,
the four bodies,
the burning staves.
Seized ourselves,
we did not think of them
beyond this picture.
Instead, the skeins of hair and catgut
and the cries of wooden instruments
transported us from that castle room,
whose window ledges were so wide
a person might easily lie down
and watch birds circling below
or the Green Salzach coursing
between the fortressed monastery
and the domes and tiles of the Alte Stadt
that, from this dizzy height,
like the Mozart,
seemed all spires,
cream and light.
Even the air
seemed something we could ride.

After that concert on the mountain,
we made our way down with the others
in a thrall of silence,
as though the music continued
constructing itself,
fulfilling expectations,
teasing us out of time
as it carried us through it.
Little flashlights sketched the road.

Later, while we slept,
still buoyed by music,
in another country
some swell of sky, or sea,
or spirit tossed your father’s body
gently from his bed.
He lay there, curled on the carpet
as if asleep, while we lay together
in bed, a place we’d taught ourselves
as children
not to fall from, even in dream.
Inside me our son swam,
sculpting the lake
in his waxy sheen of vernix,
the pads of his fingers
already wrinkled
with the whorls of self.
When storm clouds piled
and flickered with charges of light,
how strange the swollen window curtain
seemed to us, in bed,
coming toward us that way
like something invisible thrashing
in a bandage,
a figment so odd
in its contorted familiarity,
that we sighed when it lifted,
and the wind and rain blew coolly in—



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