Interlude: Still Still

Robin Behn

 
Inside the hole, where it's yellow,
the boy has dropped a quarter
so that the guitar rattles
when he shakes it by the neck.
Knocks, scrapes, scars.
So this is what music is.
The wooden body is no longer
bigger than his body.
The strings, which, when
he strums them,
go on forever are forever
wound around small pegs
shaped like the big ones
they wrap the ropes around,
there being an absence of
able-bodied mourners
to lower, with the softer machines
of their bodies, the coffin down.
It was a cold day.
The boy had not been born yet,
but stood among us
warm in his round place.
Then, from the distance,
the bagpiper who'd been found
in the yellow pages
extracted the horizon note
like a red needle from the sky.
And so it was not with nothing
human our friend was lowered.
This is what music is.
But how did it sound to the boy,
the bladder of cries squeezed
through the slit throat
when there had not been anything
yet to cry about?
The solace of music is
not that we recognize it.
It is that the hearing
comes from before and is wound
around after. Between,
our bad singing a stranger
dozed, then bulldozed to.
At home, in its case, the guitar
was hunkered inside the dark
into which music goes,
and the more particular dark
from which music comes
was inside of it.
The sound hole swallowed and passed back
buckets of silence
until the inner and outer dark
had the same yellow smell.
This, while the song the boy
would pay for waited, still still.
 
Winner of the 2001 Brittingham Prize in Poetry. Copyright © 2001 by Robin Behn. Reprinted by permission of the University of Wisconsin Press. All rights reserved.

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