Interlude: Still Still

Inside the hole, where it’s yellow, 
the boy has dropped a quarter 
so that the guitar rattles

when he shakes it by the neck. 
Knocks, scrapes, scars. 
So this is what music is.

The wooden body is no longer 
bigger than his body. 
The strings, which, when

he strums them, 
go on forever are forever 
wound around small pegs

shaped like the big ones 
they wrap the ropes around, 
there being an absence of

able-bodied mourners 
to lower, with the softer machines 
of their bodies, the coffin down.

It was a cold day.
The boy had not been born yet, 
but stood among us

warm in his round place. 
Then, from the distance,
the bagpiper who’d been found

in the yellow pages 
extracted the horizon note 
like a red needle from the sky.

And so it was not with nothing 
human our friend was lowered. 
This is what music is.

But how did it sound to the boy, 
the bladder of cries squeezed 
through the slit throat

when there had not been anything 
yet to cry about?
The solace of music is

not that we recognize it. 
It is that the hearing 
comes from before and is wound

around after. Between, 
our bad singing a stranger 
dozed, then bulldozed to.

At home, in its case, the guitar 
was hunkered inside the dark 
into which music goes,

and the more particular dark 
from which music comes 
was inside of it.

The sound hole swallowed and passed back 
buckets of silence
until the inner and outer dark

had the same yellow smell. 
This, while the song the boy 
would pay for waited, still still.

Winner of the 2001 Brittingham Prize in Poetry. Copyright © 2001 by Robin Behn. Reprinted by permission of the University of Wisconsin Press. All rights reserved.