Josh lives in San Antonio, Texas.
© 2011 Josh Bauer
The Pleasure Of Calling One Thing By Another’s Name
This is when you were still playing viola
devoutly in the Suzuki method
and everything you wrote featured triplets.
Your Catholic upbringing was not lost on you.
And you used to cry in parking lots
because your mother
was praying for your soul.
Your sister was having children
and we were holed up
in a hotel.
You said to me you’d always been safe,
your whole life
it was time for something
another life completely
in which you are
and you don’t look so much
like La Belle Dame sans Merci
from the back of our AP English book
like Lesley Hornby
in the shadow of fashion.
This was one year before you quit
what you considered
real living and you said to me
If you want the Pulitzer you have to get in a long line.
Your back was straight
like a plank perpendicular
to the polished pine floor
sitting second chair viola
in front of the bassoons.
The theme was the cosmos.
It was a grand design
that fell apart
in practice. As I used to say, “like communism.”
It didn’t take into account humanity.
The cosmos rarely does.
The orchestra sounded dissident.
This was either genius
failure. The woodwinds floated so far
above our heads that we could not feel them.
The smashing brass section was exhausted
by the second movement
the theme involved so much rotation
and perfect execution
they prayed for death.
Your bow never faltered.
Your notes stayed so constant
the violas were mistaken for light.
The proud violins sounded
like Paganini giving notations
to William Blake.
A third of their number where miming.
When we got out of the auditorium
into the sunlight you said,
“That was too modern.
It sounded like hell.” I agreed and we talked
quietly about the composer they had flown in to conduct.
You must remember
there is a pair to almost everything.
The soft coal pupils, the chambers of the heart,
the wild limbs, the teeth and all their brothers
the fingers, the toes, the hidden bundles of sinew
now, more like strings than cables.
I don’t have the memory for the maddening miracles.
I got your hair right.
Saying its phrase over and over,
“She drops her copper into my lungs.”
I lost your eyes,
your freckles, and myself,
having nothing real to cling to
sunk through your bones
into the dirt, turned to clay.
Your lips, misplaced
along with a map of the West Coast,
showing in the color of blood
routes into the sea.
All work is property of Josh Bauer.
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