Skip to content

From the archives

Carbon Copy

In equal balance justly weighed

Slouching toward Democracy

Where have all the wise men gone?

By Populist Demand

When urban and rural voters went separate ways

In memoriam: sonata 1014


Donny plays like he’s fighting for his life, like he’s flushing

a fever, saving orphans, damming a flooding river. Forgive

the jagged attack. Play with the fury of the bereaved. Like

soldiers they’d tried to communicate over static smoke.

The war has no solution for marriage. Start with warning

shots. Kandahar is the backdrop of the unconscious, broken

walls where children pick bullet casings for play, where

slow suicides approach in dusty cars. Bach needs no transla-

tion. Counterpoint’s the universal language, and harmony

is hot. Play like you’re James Joyce. Morning traffic clears

its throat. Next door, starts the rabbi’s prayer harmon-

ized by pigeons. The metronome is medicine. Play like an

ice-breaker cracking a path through a stiffened river. Play

like you’re Mont Blanc’s pyramid gleaming above shred-

ded clouds. Maybe they are Aristophanes’s comic couple,

two bodies sewn back to back, impossible lovers: gorge

and starve, open and cold, poor and wrong. He’s distracted

by desire the way birds follow the river of threaded needle

south to Trois-Rivières. He’s always stepping on his part-

ner’s toes. He’s a soldier, a gunner, a sapper panicked by his

own exploding bowels. Play like you’re fighting for your

wife. Music needs no translation. Bach said it’s just hitting

the right keys at the right moment. Now you’re swim-

ming, breathing with the ligatures, recalling the cadence.

You thank the lamb for the yarn you follow, the sweaters

she’s knit you. The violinist’s ornaments are perfect. Thank

her for her sprezzatura. Thank the piano for its strings

and forgive yourself yourself. You are filled with desire

for the silent dark, the prayers of pigeons cracking your

dreams, her hair sweeping your neck. Swimming back along

the river, the needles of every pine and fir reach for you.

Swimming back along the river is like being orphaned and

reborn, following a bright umbilical of white water. Play

like you’re the hidden river buried metres below the whirl-

ing waters. Play like you’ve opened the river’s mouth.


Naomi Guttman is the author of Reasons for Winter (Brick Books, 1991) and Wet Apples, White Blood (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2007), which won the Adirondack Center for the Arts Literary Award for Best Book of Poems. Her novella-in-verse, The Banquet of Donny & Ari: Scenes from the Opera, will be published by Brick Books in March 2015.