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.

Further Reading

Related Poems
by Edith Sitwell
Poems about Mourning
by Dana Levin
Basket of Figs
by Ellen Bass
For My Grandmother's Perfume, Norell
by Nickole Brown
In Memory of Sigmund Freud
by W. H. Auden
jasper texas 1998
by Lucille Clifton
The Earth Opens and Welcomes You
by Abdellatif Laâbi
To Keep the Memory of Charlotte Forten Grimké
by Angelina Weld Grimké
Unfollowed Figment
by Lyn Hejinian
What the Living Do
by Marie Howe
White Apples
by Donald Hall
Poems about Music
by David Lehman
A Book Of Music
by Jack Spicer
A Score for Tourist Movies
by Mary Austin Speaker
A Violin at Dusk
by Lizette Woodworth Reese
Alexander's Feast; or, the Power of Music
by John Dryden
B-Sides from my Idol Tryouts
by Harmony Holiday
Beagle or Something
by April Bernard
Fiddler Jones
by Edgar Lee Masters
Get Up, Please
by David Kirby
Go Greyhound
by Bob Hicok
Here and Now
by Stephen Dunn
Honky Tonk in Cleveland, Ohio
by Carl Sandburg
Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness
by John Donne
Hymn to the Night
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Latin & Soul
by Victor Hernández Cruz
Little Fugue
by Marianne Boruch
Lost Fugue for Chet
by Lynda Hull
Lullaby in Blue
by Betsy Sholl
by Caroline Knox
Ode to Lil’ Kim in Florence
by Barbara Hamby
On 52nd Street
by Philip Levine
Passing Through Albuquerque
by John Balaban
Poem for You
by David Shapiro
by Katrina Vandenberg
Street Music
by Robert Pinsky
The Banjo Player
by Fenton Johnson
The Day Duke Raised: May 24th, 1974
by Quincy Troupe
The Everyday Enchantment of Music
by Mark Strand
The Guitar
by Federico García Lorca
The Last Evening
by Steven Kronen
The Owl and the Pussy-Cat
by Edward Lear
The Supremes
by Mark Jarman
The Waltz We Were Born For
by Walt McDonald
The Weary Blues
by Langston Hughes
The World Doesn’t Want Me Anymore, and It Doesn’t Know It
by Sean Singer
Two Pages, 122 Words on Music and Dance
by John Cage
by David Meltzer
Water Music
by Robert Creeley