Mozart Songbook

Outside on Fremont Ave, black
snow and no such thing as a
white wig or a lovestruck violet
who sings his heart out. My lungs
ached, huge with breath and the harsh
sweetness of strange words. Veilchen,
Mädchenmy brother spoke them
to show how my tongue was a gate
that could open secrets. He pressed
keys partway, to draw softest sounds              
from the upright, and what he loved
I loved. That was my whole faith then.

More by Joan Larkin

The Combo

In barlight alchemized: gold pate, the bellmouth
tenor, liquor trapped in a glass. The e-flat
clarinet chases time, strings shudder,
remembering the hundred tongues. Here comes old
snakeshine, scrolls stored in the well, here comes
the sobbing chazzan. O my lucky uncle,
you've escaped the Czar's army. Thunder
is sweet. Here comes the boink, boink bossa
nova slant of light. Snow-dollars
dissolve on a satin tongue. The river
swells green, concrete trembles, and we
sweat, leaning toward mikes and wires
as the last tune burns down to embers. Ash-
whispers. We were born before we were born.

Flesh

Hooves were forbidden, but she fed us			               

stringy liver, thick tongue, gray kishkes 						

crammed with something soft. She had a bulb	         

of garlic, a handful of salt, some wretched carrots.       

Drew out blood with salt, clamped her grinder 

and fed chunks into it and forced them down.        

She let me turn the crank, and red worms      	

fell to the bowl. I ate according to the Law             	

and the cow's flesh became my flesh. 	   		

Now I lower my head to eat, moan when I wake 	

from the fear dream, the one where we shove 		

one another down the ramp toward the violent 

stench and the boy's knife. He lifts his arm

in a rhythm I've always known.