The Before Song — Vol. 26.1 (2015)

Posted on Tue, Aug 16, 2016

The Before Song

The flute hasn’t changed in all this time.
The earliest ones, the hole-bored antelope bone
and the one from a bird’s bone, that we’ve found

in the dark of the earliest caves… are the same
as the one the busker plays on the corner
of Olive and 17th today, and also the dark

is the same, is unchanged, is the same
theology mystery, sex mystery, and death
in the corner mystery… although, as with the flute,

there may be small telltale signs that stamp it
contemporary… the way our skull contains
its 21st-century tangle, and still has kept

its covenant from millennia back.
And so, I suspect, with the heart. It’s autumn dusk
now, and the busker packs the tool of his trade

away in the velveteen-lined case, and heads home
through the park. It’s empty. Under a tree
he sits down and — he couldn’t say why —

unpacks the flute again. Before he was playing
for rent money. Now… do you remember
all of those poems from the 1970s

when Janis Joplin died? Do you remember
Beethoven’s funeral crowds, I think I saw you
singing a note at Babylon’s fall, I think it was buried

then excavated a hundred thousand times tonight
in the earbuds of this city… . He plays
his flute, he plays his heart into his flute,

he plays for no other audience than
the sky — which is to say, the dark,
the music before there were instruments.

(Back to poems)