Early Instance

Once, the violin maker bent
so close and for so long to beauty
he almost saw the saw as it ravished his hand.

But now, his three fingers light up her face
—here-, here-here-here—
amid the forest of primitive instruments

—horn and crumhorn, lute and three-holed flute—
branching from hooks along the walls
of his one room.

This maker makes her sad.
Or good. Or safe. Or steady.
Or briefly steadfast in his birdfoot hand.

And after, since she asks, 
he plays one of his fiddles for her,
tucking it under his right ear,

bowing with what is left of his left hand,
letting the joyful spider the right fingers make
loose to spell and spell the thing she still can feel…

But not till decades later will she sense herself as music.
And what will bring her to it will be a need for solace 
beyond the human kind.


From Horizon Note by Robin Behn © 2001 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. Reprinted by permission of the University of Wisconsin Press.