Courage, nothing less,
stands between cello
on the wall of living room
and me. The case that wraps it
is Courage, red and shining, locks defiant
closed as buttons on a shirt close
the body of the Beloved and as easily
torn open, if moved by enough
desire, red and shining as
It’s there. The body crafted to sing is
there. Quiet, waiting, poised,
reckless, on precipice of
sound at any instant,
were there not Courage there
surrounded by flagrant,
palpable, empty room.
The room is Courage, and air
would fill quickly with cello
voice as soon as it was entered,
claimed. Instrument torn out
of Courage as Courage filled me,
my hands grasping familiar wood,
my fingers bending the old way,
my knees shifting, my back arranging
itself to accommodate instrument,
which I claimed in birth of
Courage, in which I pledged to
fill Courage with sound.
But even as I close
my eyes and imagine
I dismantle Courage,
Courage stills me with pounding
of red and shining heart.
I cannot invoke sound.
Even as strings slip
beneath fingers and wood
creaks between knees,
the voice of Courage eludes me.
I close eyes to memory,
like a dream. Me in a chair, cello
there, caught in pictures, stop
motion orchestra of little
women and elbows bony
around instruments, conductor’s
hair long, drooping over changing frame
by frame as melody refuses to
come. But memory darkens
I cannot remember what
we played. Between then and
now, the last stills have
disintegrated and I am left sitting
there, silent, full of youth,
youth the most ancient part of me.
Can we have more than one encounter with Courage?
Is it Courage if it does not take all of our being?
For if we complete the act and survive, is it still
Courage? What is life after? Decrescendo.
Tectonic re-shift of marrow between bones,
lost space within ourselves profound
quiet before it was filled by
Courage, some emptiness
replaced by sound,
like a bell,
But until there is Courage
like a river between
us and the body whose voice
we remember but cannot
find within ourselves is born…
We stand, eyes shut, searching
for volume to turn up, searching
for the shots that finish the film. We,
so close, recede further away, imagining
Courage, incomplete as unfound
Beloved. Features there, feelings
I stack confidence between me
and Courage. I have woken up this morning and
read headlines and have survived it.
I have spoken in front of crowds and
danced in them. I have jumped
off a bridge and enjoyed it, flew.
I have lived alone. I have made new friends
and kept the old. I have had my heart broken
and it reglued. I have talked to people unlike me
and felt understood. I can make my own bread
and buy my own wine
and drive across the country
and run for seven miles
and it is good.
I have sixty or seventy years ahead of me and I should, if the past twenty-one have been any indication, die happy
and when I die, I’ll court Courage.
I’ll decide, then, to heave breath
and be filled with sound.
There’ll be no empty room between
my soul and others, only sunset
stuff of July at nine, sun
stealing the center of sky for
red shining heart with cold white moon.
Courage has no body.
It is not touch:
weight of the bow,
glide of the fingertips on neck,
gentle crane of the cello-back
that sings. The bodies do
not forget each other, will
never forget how to sit
together in an empty room.
It’s how-sweet sound,
the certainty of its fact
ricochets off the walls of the living
room to resonate back within me,
relinquishing my own boundaries to
power within hollow instrument, empty
room within a room
within a room.
I had I
them, conceived to
live between one
note and the
other, my cello
air, the whole
awkward and un-
me like the
lovers, loose, for
see, for the
room to take up and run.
Courage is displaced by
Courage, filled with Courage
like a shot. We have no need
for it, can not exceed it. We
complete our reasoned need for Courage
and leave the rest for someone
else, our bodies spent, our minds
exploded on pavement
like old newspapers, their tragedies
trampled beneath bodies of forgotten
persons who we walk past and condemn
for lack of Courage.
Courage that cannot be commemorated.
Echoed, but not captured because
the room will hold other
bodies, their lovers, their voices.
Courage may resound but not
consume. It moves. Cannot be
stilled between before and after
joy and sadness, being
the impetus for each, too.
Courage is violent, bloody
tearing out of past and into
present, forgetting future for
a moment of precision, vulgar
in its sureness of yes, this.
Selfish explosion out of self,
demand for sound, for action,
movement forward, if unplanned.
Fear replaced with thrust,
vigorously inhabiting a tension
filled box, with all
anguish and exhilaration of you
Courage the nothingness,
the body. Courage the future,
forgetting. Courage the voice,
the heartbeating. Courage the cut,
capsule. Courage breath,
body. Courage Black.
Courage mourning. Courage
love. Beauty love
My shoes were wrong.
I felt the muscles of my legs
tighten like the strings of the cello
on my back in anticipation of
the impact with the slick black pavement.
Saw us both
smashed cold on cold cement
blond hair wound around pegs
wood filled with blood.
I realized how like we are,
some strings, wound up around
some wood and clothed
in a plushy box,
How few my uses are.
How easily I am rendered