Song for N Perfect Pitch


Now the train cries in triads across the blue prairie snow
against the muffled thup thup of my backpack 
against my thick wool coat,
the crystalline windchimes of the December stars: an old
vase crashing in slow motion against a marble floor.

The train’s voice: what three notes?  You knew. 
I thought you more rooted in the universe.  You
could pull any note out of the night air, black, white,
definite like the world’s answers to your questions.  
It took me a week of trains to catch all three.

Before you, all horns were one.  You gave me
the difference between trumpets and trombones, you,
distinct as the black arms of the trees against
the mauve snowy sky.  I was inbetween,
not the black keys on a piano but the uncharted
waters inside a glissando, the somewhere of a slide.

Fixed like the sky, I thought you had both 
feet in the world, firmly grounded.  But
driving through the misty July mornings it was I
who saw the flashes and winks of animal eyes, lost
in fog.  I taught myself the language of music

metaphors to talk to you, foolishly assuming you 
were studying the linguistics of my life to read 
me – until a winding road night in June: we stopped
in an Iowa town.  Here is where I wrote that poem
for you.  Nothing.  Then, what poem?  

In all your perfect pitch prowess, pulling notes
from thin air one by one like grapes 
off a vine, I was just twenty measures of rest,
vamp indefinitely.  It wasn’t that you could not
hear, just that you weren’t listening, and I
never learned to sing in tune for you.  



March, 2004


(back)