IN THE TEETH OF TIME
Music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts.
--T.S. Eliot, "The Dry Salvages"
The violinist is dying, the pianist is
dying, all of us
in this high-ceilinged room on our chairs are dying.
The roses in the sunlight streaming through the windows
are dying, though their scent is strong.
Outside a dog howls as the violin pours forth
its intricate filigree, its amazing leaps and moans.
Poor howling dog, howling for all of us sitting here
on this Sunday afternoon in the teeth of time.
We are forever brothers and sisters,
held together in this womb, birthed
through the throes of the music into the sunlight.
We howl with pain and joy.
This musk of mortality mixes with the fragrance of the roses.
The moans and sobs of the violin are indistinguishable
from the blood leaping in our veins on this
Sunday afternoon in the kingdom of forever.
The cutting edge of time is essential to the ecstasy.
The performers are our high priests, flinging themselves
into the silence to bring back treasures for the tribe,
which we devour in this ritual communion.
We ride their backs as if on dolphins,
soaring into the sunlight scattering diamonds,
plunging through the depths, lungs bursting,
our exuberance edged with panic.
In this moment of alchemy, discipline is inseparable from freedom,
fierceness from tenderness, focus from abandonment.
The music is a lover with a hundred hands, and we are reeling
with the sudden touch of sound after a moment of silence.
Worth it to be mortal on a day like this,
with the sunlight, the roses,
the music rising to heaven, swooping back
to earth, our vehicle to eternity.
The music of Wilhelm-Friedemann Bach is playing
and my head is against your chest
so that I hear the music as a variation
on the theme of your breathing and your heartbeat
and I remember a game we once played about which sense
we would choose to keep if four had to be lost
and how eliminating one by one we both arrived finally
at touch as the last we could bear to lose
and it comes to me now
hearing the music echo and counterpoint
your breathing and your heartbeat
that all our senses finally are touch-
and even the colors and shapes that strike the rods and cones
of our eyes inseparable from that physical connection
as the sound of your heartbeat and your breath is here
inseparable from the contact of my cheek against your chest
and the music that has unlocked these connections in my brain.
And I know suddenly that music is thought without content
like the ancient foundations at Byblos-whose upper walls and roofs
have long since crumbled-holding their pattern still
though we cannot know which room was meant for sleeping,
which for dining, which perhaps for music,
a lens focused lightly-lightless-on an infinity
of feeling darkness, a country
in which passports do not exist and the only boundary
is the one between my cheek and your chest.
In the complex of flavors and textures
in his mouth and hers-the sensual connection;
in the automatic act of swallowing-the trust!
She sees his eyes huge, sightless with concentration,
suckling at his mother's breast.
She knows he is back there now
as he forks up this meal she has prepared
which will become his cells and hers,
a communion more intimate than any
transient conjunction of body parts.
Alchemy of food transformed to blood and bone:
he is marked by her, even to the chromosomes
he will give back to seed another mouth.