At the Chinese Opera

The room was saturated
            with percussion: the silvery knell
of bells and chimes, the leaden
            gallop of drums, gongs.

How fervent! you said.
            I think it’s realigning my teeth!
I placed my finger in your mouth,
            touched an incisor. I said, I think

it’s altered the rhythm of my heart.
            The opera was Summer Snow
a young widow is executed
            for another’s crime.

We watched her swing
            her long black ponytail
around and around,
            keeping her executioners at bay,

and a shiver coursed down my arms
            as she sang in a desperate,
screeching falsetto. The swords
            sliced through the windmill

of her hair. She clattered to the floor
            and all the drumming stopped.
Confucius believed sound affects
            the harmony of the universe.

In that pronounced silence,
            we felt a stirring in our chests,
our very cells shifting, buzzing
            like struck tuning forks.

My heart murmured for a moment,
            unsure of its rhythm. Finally
I coughed and it settled, and I prised
            open my tight, clenched fists.  end