For György and Marta Kurtág

sitting alone on my couch and the orange light
cast from the lamp perched there on the windowsill
is blushing me and the dark blue sky

in a sunset shade even though it’s late at night
and the sun set hours ago, leaving only its blueness
behind as an excuse to come back later,

and I’m listening to György Kurtág
and eating raw carrots with a little bit of cheese,
and it’s really wonderful, this warmth,

this listening to György Kurtág, who is playing Bach for four
hands with his wife, Marta Kurtág, with the most exquisite
touch, you can feel the tenderness with which they point

and counterpoint to one another, maybe their knees even touch
when their hands begin to converge on contrary lines,
and it sounds like each stroke of the keys is directed

yes directed at the other as if to say:
just as Bach, in his genius, knew
where to place each note,

so that it rang not only true
but beautiful, like a telos, you,
you are perfect exactly right here.

A Scene From a Film

She moves from the stone-dark house
Into the screaming brightness of the field

And flogs her way through the starving
Towards the stone-dark well to raise her daily

Bucket of water for her washing and her
The crux of it: even the crows are silent,

And all the grass is dead. She
The stone-stripped rope to raise the bucket

Out into the screaming brightness
To discover that it is wet no longer, the well

Gone dry, its water drowned in stones.
                                                                                          She flogs 
Her way through the starving wind back

to the stone-dark house and out from the
Brightness of the field to open the worm-bitten

Door and enter into the sucking warmth of the
House to sit on her worm-bitten chair and stare

Out the worm-bitten window into the
Brightness of the field whipped by the starving

Wind. She stares until the field ceases its screaming
                                                                                             and the wind
Is sated and starving no more and the blackness
Of the stone-sunk well becomes the blackness of her
And her sleep the coming blackness of the earth.

A Heavenly Voice Commands

Wake up before her, open
Your eyes, slowly, blink
Off your weariness and, refreshed,
Turn your head to the window—
The white shades drawn, glowing
Orange, yellow, and white
From a sun not quite so high
As to be fully risen
—and brush your hand
Against her back to usher in
The softness of the day.
Get up now and go
To the bathroom to urinate,
Not without difficulty, for some
Time now, difficulties persist
And compound, but no matter, straining
Done, look at the trees from the west
Facing window glowing red
As you’ve seen trees glow
Only when this far north,
Shake and flush and run
The water cold over your cracked
Pink hands, feel it slide off
Like a film—without a trace,
Caressed only by its coolness
—down the drain with the night.
Dry your hands by pushing
Them, crooked, talon-like
Through what hair you have left
Take pleasure that there’s still enough
To catch the water. Consider, for a moment,
The pill bottles next to the sink, remember
Which bottle corresponds to which day
Which capsule to which ailment to which
Decaying segment of the whole,
But leave them for now—there’s
A difference between what preserves
And what sustains and today
You will extol the latter—
Turn the corner and walk
Down the stairs, listen
To the creaking
Of the wood and your bones
under your weight, listen
And hear, for the first time,
The tones hidden within, the music
Of decline, playing what remains,
Until you reach the bottom
Of the stairs. Walk to the kitchen, prepare
A piece of toast and slice a tomato,
The last of the last
Batch of the summer season,
Ripened, finally, soft but not
Past the point of structure, its sweetness
Enhanced by a sprinkling of salt, a trick
Learned long ago, place the tomato
On the toast, and walk outside
In your underwear and feel
The morning air, still cool but passing
Into heat upon your skin
And remember that in your youth
You might have thought, but what
If someone sees, though of course
You always wanted someone to see.
As you stand and take your first
Bite of the tomato toast, marvel
At the beauty of this gift,
At the gift, that’s what it is, of being
Able to eat this tomato, its sweetness
Enhanced by the salt in actual fact,
Its juices, unleashed by the salt
As well, moistening the bread which,
After all, still retains its crunch, a miracle,
No small thing, to be able to eat this gift
While the sun, risen now, warms
Your pallid flesh, as you warm inhale
The scent of pine and sea water
And that unidentifiable scent that has plagued you
With its evasion, that scent lingering somewhere
Between chamomile and cinnamon
That comes, like a ghost, only in passing,
Receding, always, when you try
To look for the source. What a wonder to close your eyes,
Which you will now do, and stop––
Cease your chewing, and for a moment
Cease your breathing and lose
Everything, every miracle, every wonder
With which you have just been graced,
lose them, lose the taste of tomato
The taste of toast, the scent of sea,
Of pines, lose that ghostly
Intoxicating scent as you always had,
Lose the warmth of the sun,
Lose the comfort of the air
Which has, on so many occasions before,
Wrapped you in perfection, which has
Swaddled you like a child in perfection,
Lose it all, lose it all but only
For a moment, then return and feel
The world come back to you,
Touched now, like all things,
With the grace of loss.
Now turn, walk back inside
And place your empty plate in the sink
To be dealt with at some other time
And turn again to climb the stairs,
Listening anew. Emerge at the top
To walk back to the bedroom, where you will
Now pause briefly in the precipice
To smile at the sight of her
gently turning to embrace your absence

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