—too many waltzes have ended . . . – Wallace Stevens It’s only when the stars are lined above a burning cathedral, charnel house or theater, when the air is filled with riffling ashes that hallow a space where tragedy & comedy are indistinguishable that these seeds, too small to see, take to the wind— & when they find a soil rich with the bones of dictators & clowns, they root, & thrive if fed the vowels of gallows confessions: soon you’ll see buttons mushroom like tiny nipples on one side, black & white keys start to show like chicken bones on the other, & the bellows concertina as they breathe. And if you were born beneath a bad sign, or boast a lineage of hucksters & carnival barkers, if no one you know has been touched by luck or grace, if you’ve drifted through your life for years an accordion may choose you to bear it, & if you pick it up after much has come to naught a music of motion & full of shadows will begin, a music for when the president’s statue is pulled down by a rope, for when the people waltz though the town square, or when the cinema catches fire, & film strips blizzard the air, alive with the faces of the dead, everyone catching beautiful faces on their tongues, at last you have an heirloom to pass to your kids, who will ignore it until your wake, which will have lots of parking, & all the music in the world.
Copyright © 2019 Mark Wagenaar. This poem originally appeared in Poetry Northwest, Winter & Spring 2019. Used with permission of the author.