Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2020  Vol. 19 No. 2
an online journal of literature and the arts
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The grand piano rolls back down the mountain,
the scale ascending.

The dust that roars
blossoms and falls
even as the voice goes on,
and then, more slowly, curves.

I have heard this tune long after it vanished:

the sigh of smoke above the factories of the coast,
the sob
of the gulf that takes
the sullied industry of one night out.

In every threnody,
pleasure opens a door,
closes another, closes the eyes
the way one opens
a cage of moths to dust
the garden.
Earth consumes a sister,
and those who gather put aside
their desire to be noticed.

They talk, if they talk,
more softly,
as if someone were sleeping
just over the threshold,

someone they talk to still
with the frightened conscience of a child.


The man at the piano sees the mirror in the mirror in the piece
he plays
as an endless conversation.

The ascension of a question,
the downward movement of reply,
they make a symmetry so angelic

he hears in it the stillness
of the illuminated

He hears a violin
whose attendant grand piano floats
through the dome of the cathedral.

If you find paradise disturbing, good.
If starred
with animals whose hearts beat fast.

In every beast, a million hydrogen bombs going off at once.

In the blood
of the diamond,

the gore and glory of the sky.


A great weight falls,
and what we hear is not thunder, fever, or explanation,
but wind in our jackets.

Dawn breaks over the sleeping face,
a dish of spent cigarettes
on the table.
The radio
floats in and out of consciousness,
and the space beside the widow is snow.

I do not call it progress.
I am sorry,
we say to those more bereaved than us,
which opens
a distance it would close.

The skin
between one body and another grows
more translucent.

A great weight falls,

and I do not call it progress yet.


Arvo Pärt was a man in exile, over and over,

called to write an anthem
of return,
a plainchant scored for smoke
and scavenger
and the one flowering
in the wind chime of ice and stars.

On the fulcrum of the A, the lifting of the burden,
the arc
of the cry,
the sirens of a battered neighborhood
long ago.

If a dead and beautiful language opened him up
with the vast awe

of a mass grave,
it was no less personal.

The sound of one hand talking
to another,

the song of the listening

refugee who sleeps light beneath her god.


The widow asleep on the table says to the scalpel,
take of this, my flesh.
as if the knife had a suffering to remove
to open up the view.

The stillness after the guests have left,
with their kind words and casseroles,
is alive.

You are not alone,
it whispers to the body asleep on the table.

You are asleep on the table.

And just when you thought you understood,
the surgeon gets
to the quietest part,

when he lifts slow the damaged heart

and lays the stranger in.  

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