Featured Poem 12/8/02:
I live in Madison, Wisconsin. Last year
our symphony orchestra played on Christmas Eve
out of doors.
This was not wise.
At first a few, then many swirling flakes began
to bead the strings of violins, to slide
glissando down the cellosą necks, and dance
in pretty choreographies inside
the gargling throats of tubas.
Kettle drummers fluffed and pummeled
quickly thickening cloths of snow
like bakers beating dough for bread,
or boxers practicing on cornstarch.
As snow cushioned the blows
of felt hammers on wet strings, the pianist
stood up and shouted out the melody,
pounding his now all-white keys as they
grew more and more pianissimo, until
they made no sound at all.
He shouted louder. It snowed harder.
The men were dressing from the bottom up
in white tuxedos, while the women donned
white shoes and skirts, and then, in tandem with
the rising snowline, disappeared entirely in white,
and yet still sawed, plucked, and tooted, mute
but disciplined to the very end‹committed,
like the true professionals they were,
to finishing the program.
They kept up. So did the storm.
The conductor, though he stood upon a box,
was overwhelmed. But he would not give up.
He would go down with his entire ship,
which he continued to command
in more and more restricted movements,
sight unseen beneath the snow,
his buried back turned to the buried seats
where once had sat an audience
long since gone home to hot cocoa and CDs.
The draped and wiggling orchestra reminded us
of various things:
a pregnant albino giantess kicked by fetus feet;
a vanilla-flavored earthquake, strenuously quiet;
ice cream aerobics without a boom box;
strawberries panicking beneath whipped cream;
and a silent movie of consenting polar bears
doing risky things with towels and custard.
The first violinist was the last to stop.
We cheered at the sight of the tip of her bow
poked up above a wave of snow and slowly,
inch by inch, pulled down one final time‹
a periscope on a submarine, lost at sea,
months from port, the loyal crew
unable to recall the reason for observing
radio silence, but still doing so,
slumped at their stations, craving pure white
sleep, and some
already dreaming in the key of C.
* * * * * * * On Christmas Day, in honor of our brave musicians,
we played croquet
upon the snow that covered them,
laughing and hitting brightly colored balls
through the looped ends of brass trombones
jutting skyward in the sun.
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