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The Cellist

by
 At intermission I find her backstage
still practicing the piece coming up next.
She calls it the "solo in high dreary.
" Her bow niggles at the string like a hand stroking skin it never wanted to touch.
Probably under her scorn she is sick that she can't do better by it.
As I am, at the dreary in me, such as the disparity between all the tenderness I've received and the amount I've given, and the way I used to shrug off the imbalance simply as how things are, as if the male were constituted like those coffeemakers that produce less black bitter than the quantity of sweet clear you poured in--forgetting about how much I spilled through unsteady walking, and that lot I threw on the ground in suspicion, and for fear I wasn't worthy, and all I poured out for reasons I don't understand yet.
"Break a leg!" somebody tells her.
Back in my seat, I can see she is nervous when she comes out; her hand shakes as she re-dog-ears the top corners of the big pages that look about to flop over on their own.
Now she raises the bow--its flat bundle of hair harvested from the rear ends of horses--like a whetted scimitar she is about to draw across a throat, and attacks.
In a back alley a cat opens her pink-ceilinged mouth, gets netted in full yowl, clubbed, bagged, bicycled off, haggled open, gutted, the gut squeezed down to its highest pitch, washed, sliced into cello strings, which bring an ancient screaming into this duet of hair and gut.
Now she is flying--tossing back the goblets of Saint-Amour standing empty, half-empty, or full on the tablecloth- like sheet music.
Her knees tighten and loosen around the big-hipped creature wailing and groaning between them as if in elemental amplexus.
The music seems to rise from the crater left when heaven was torn up and taken off the earth; more likely it comes up through her priest's dress, up from that clump of hair which by now may be so wet with its waters, like the waters the fishes multiplied in at Galilee, that each wick draws a portion all the way out to its tip and fattens a droplet on the bush of half notes now glittering in that dark.
At last she lifts off the bow and sits back.
Her face shines with the unselfconsciousness of a cat screaming at night and the teary radiance of one who gives everything no matter what has been given.

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