A LITTLE NUMBER BY VIVALDI

A LITTLE NUMBER BY VIVALDI

This man, this
redheaded Italian, this
priest of musicians,
who lost to the bombers in Dresden
when the world had run out of
carnivals,
manuscripts enough to paper
the mouths of warmongers everywhere,
a cupful only
in his Adriatic, though more
than we might imagine
sitting up nights
the four seasons
of three centuries–

You can almost see him score
page after page
the brave bullseyes of joy
his music through the mind starts
plunking
strings that whip the curd
off living
darkeyed kids
with kernel faces
jump through upside down gondolas
set lagoons in storm
blowing out palazzi
cobwebbed silences be damned
when this priest gets cricket palsy–

Think of the ospedale
Venice,
where girls skipped through his skills,
magnificats
out of back alley terrors
(reread Casanova)
the filthy sheeting traded in
for clean counterpoint.
Winters no perfumes could warm
hot after practice
violas screeched to the high ceilings,
if that doesn’t certify
patience, what does?

They learned the values well
–plain and decorated–
for fun or maybe out of fright
il prete rosso would frown
and dreamed of
sliding down stairs
onto doorsteps
poor orphans
fleshed out with graces
concerted bodies played
every spring at least
(in white cocoons)
melodies of the Red Admiral–
what they could do
their townsmen quick to sight read
knew,
and visitors were ravished.
“There is no instrument so big
as to intimidate them,”
one observed,
more innocent than they became,
I hope.
But they were pure enough to bend
the tinnest ear
to music
& only the blind could fail
to hear
that dancing bright as festivals
for which the old man twirled out
a dozen pieces
beating time
as Venice fell around them
like a golden quilt.

Probably he remembered that
in Vienna,
where he died,
the public as usual
forgetting
violins rusted out of mind
tunes imprisoned in print
useless as old scorecards,
girls gone crabbed and flat–

But where there’s art
there’s hope
leads everywhere
out of speakers
such talent years feed back
ghost girls living on
sound
haunt Brooklyn and Zurich
through the long nights
his kind of happiness makes good.

Listen:

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