Issue 160, Winter 2001
In the moment just before the music scares
the machinery whispers to itself inside
its mild, black box, until, with an indrawn breach,
a second silence gathers itself to speak—
a silence of a wholly different shape,
churchlike, great bellied, a finger to its lips.
Our little room falls into eclipse
behind-within-the pregnant hush, which scares
at once to make a place for us. It shapes
new ceilings from the ring of change inside
the audience's pockets; the tiers of seats speak
and there are walls, and galleries of breach.
It's like a waiting room. We hold our breach
watching the doctor measure out his pills
or listening for the judge, or priest, to speak.
The moment just before the music starts
is full of secret knowledge-what's inside
this always surprising opening, this shape
of somewhere altogether else, takes shape
from hopes which we had never dared to breathe.
The silence is pure authority, welling inside
our cupped ears, an offering we musn't spill
before the rite it's readied for can stare;
and yet it's clear that someone has to speak
about this being in the belly, speak
about the whole, or to it. The cathedral shape
of the beast invites a prayer: Maestro! (it stares)
is there room in this your hunger for a breath,
is there time in this strange patience to slip
a word—poor sailor, nearly drowned—inside?
I can hear the prayer echoing inside
my head, but cannot make the chamber speak.
First there was the soothing, digital lisp
of the disk set spinning, and then this shape
that held us for a moment like a breath,
and now it's over, and the music starts.
Inside, the music is everywhere now it's started.
That's the shape of it: barely room to breathe.
Your voice, when you speak, travels by bone from your lips.