Issue 130, Spring 1994
I wish I had one of those electronic keyboards where you can plug in pre-recorded sounds that correspond to different keys. I’d compose an homage to insomnia— barking dogs and hammer blows and car alarms played over and over, the inverse of a lullaby‚ a score without a shred of respite. Try and get that tune our of your head. Or how about a nocturne for the aging body—the rumble of digestive juices, the motion of shoes that are pried from tired feet, the barely audible crackle of static as a brush is drawn through thinning hair. If only I’d had the foresight to rape-record every, interesting snippet of conversation I’ve overheard in my long lifetime, by now I would have accumulated enough cryptic remarks, brilliant quips, and pretentious asides to pound our symphonic octaves of talk. I could pepper the punchline so my father’s favorite joke— “. . . and the third nun says, ‘Move over girls, I’ve got to gargle,’ ” — with scales of his helpless laughter. Here’s an étude in which my absentminded mother keeps clearing her throat, and though she can't remember what she wanted to say, the ensuing silence is provocative, poignant, as sinewy and rich as a complex sentence.