I kneel down to find a Bach fugue,
and catch sight of objects in my room
I havenít moved in so long they appear
fossilized; but it is I and not they,
the stacks of CDís, files and notebooks,
that am fossilized.
Itís a crick in the neck to be gone tomorrow,
nothing degenerative, interminable.
Itís dumb disbelief at my arthritic crawl
and the effort it now takes to do all that I
most loved to do and did without a thought.
The small moments are the hardest, the pain is like
a harpsichord playing Scarlatti
in the fog on Deer Isle, Maine,
a sound, sharp, desolate,
that penetrates the thickness and rises
over the tops of the obscure
white frame houses and church spires,
over the quiet coves where the lobster boats
are moored now that it is night,
and the man at the keyboard is businesslike,
perfunctory, as befits his savory, unsweetened instrument,
and the reposeful bodies of the faithful
who attend, and lose, for as long
as the concert goes, track of the bodyís inertial pull.
I was young, or at the turn, thirty three, a novice
to words like inflammation or disks with
nothing cartilaginous left to cushion the shock.
Itís not range of motion, migraine, or epilepsy,
where the ordinary invalid is trapped.
Iím practically crawling to reach behind
a stack of unshelved CDís to retrieve
my Scott Ross rendition of the sonatas,
though nowhere as wonderful as Louis Bagger,
the burly, bearded harpsichordist in the church in Deer Isle
who played Scarlatti with clarity, passion and abandon.
I would have thought he was quite old then.
Around my own age, fifty four.
He lived for the sounds he could elicit.
Cantata into another time.
The marginal vanquishing of earthly cares.
Thatís what the music brought me then,
and thatís what I was after now.
That night, the fog was so thick you could drive only
because so few cautious vehicles crawled the road;
I loved how my night vision could anticipate the curves,
the way Scarlattiís curt sonatas give you leave;
suspense, not surprises.
I have just posted a nervous letter to a friend
in England, some twenty years older,
hoping his bout with esophageal cancer
has not done him in.
Iím comfortable when upside down.
The pressure off my spine: supine, not prone.
Besides, it gives me access to the only
heaven I know, other than your heart.
Being an invalid doesnít mean I feel less,
or that once Iíve set off, walking, and get my stride
with my arms flapping at my sides,
that I donít build up a mighty
motion, a velocity that makes
passersby stand aside and let me pass.
Published in the Raritan