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Postmodern Village
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why I never left your father?
a tone poem
by Hezekiah Allen Taylor


Teresa and Antonio marvel
they build shrines to him

other children? oh, yes.
they are here, clinging. . .
but he . . .


he met the music before conception
he understood the pizzicato before birth
throbbing it out under the taunt surface
of Teresa’s belly

Antonio would listen discreetly
feeling the pulsations by putting a thumb, lightly
in that hollow under the lobe of her left ear

*

in Parma, 1795
he cocks his head to the right, examines
the long, long set of narrow stone stairs ahead of him

stairs that his father insists lead somewhere important
somewhere his music can be appreciated
and properly honed

the stairs are cracked, uneven, unswept
and he—he is skeptical

*

one day, a prince comes calling
persuading him to pack up
his double-stop harmonics, his sexual frenetics,
and his only violin

and he walks three hills and twenty miles
at the request
stopping only to talk up
the mythical pretty country maid

*

one day, his fingers go cold
he cannot feel the tips

oh, they sleep, he says to himself
that is all; that is all

but even after adoration, he remains chilled
remembering growing years unable to get fully warm
jackets and blankets—expanding layers—in his carriage, in his rooms
fires roaring incessantly, even in summer

but he also remembers
when he flung open windows, let out the vapors
let in the air
spent hours sweeping
a long, long set of stone stairs

*

in Vienna, 1828
the frenzy of it all raises the delicate hairs
on his long, frigid fingers

a man rushes forward as he pummels the thin strings
I know that shadow, the man says
that one cowering behind him

you must not listen, you must not
I saw Satan kiss that boy’s fingers

do you not hear me?
do you not understand?
why do you still sit?

cover that girl’s ears
what he is must never touch her
must never blow across her skin


*

one night, he piles the coins high
they climb up between her bare legs
a loose obelisk rubbing lightly against
the furry, warm spot he purchased
with just one piece of gold

he has so many now, he can play with them: Remus building Rome
but his Rome, here in this hotel room
he forms entirely from flesh, fear
and fortune

*

in Nice, 1840
strings snap, leaving him
a single, lilting vibration
but still he pulls and listens
for while he may not have all
he has this one
and he can feel it
slice deep into his fingers

he doesn’t remember why he’s been jailed
it’s not important, really
what’s important is this brilliant stone cell
bounces his music, building on each note in round

what’s important is that he plays with fire again

the priest comes
with open heart and open palm
but he curses, wishes the man away
for interrupting his serenade

take your lord
and leave me with my sounds,
he says
rejoice, brother
this is heaven, right here

for I have found it all again
burning
on this bare stone template

Francine's Version -- Hezekiah's Version
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