Preston Mark Stone
Location: Bakersfield, CA
Published in: Agnieszka's Dowry, Sniper Logic, Minerva, Digge's Choice, Stirring V1:E2, etc.
In the alley behind the historic theater,
four friends are walking home from the local bar,
gasping with whiskey laughter. All night
they talked of something they had seen
at the symphony, the Ode to Joy,
the drama of all those voices woven together
by a furious, deaf composer. What lies
under that melody, driving the pulse
of the marzo, compelling andante to allegro?
Is it joy, or anger? The singer,
who steadies herself on the poet's shoulder,
insists it must be mirth, only mirth.
But the poet points out how similar
fury and mirth can be, bombastic
and flashing with agitando. The others,
both musicians, fumble and laugh, too drunk
to consider design or intent. Then, one of them
raises his voice a little, squawking
a dozen wordless notes of imitation;
and each in time joins in, belting out bones
and shards of music, until they sing together
in jangling harmony, two tenors,
a mezzo-soprano, one in no real range.
Rising to fortissimo, they sing out
random German: wienerschnitzel, Dichter,
scheisse, ich allein, grosser Gesang;
the poet, with his needy ego,
extends an operatic hand and shrieks
a showy falsetto, and the singer
crumbles in laughter, her voice
falling out of time. A moment from now,
this awkward chorus will fade and scatter,
and these friends will find themselves
alone in their private silences, in hours
of nagging sleeplessness or restless
whiskey dreams; too soon they'll wake
to years of distance, each in a different city,
another life. The singer will catch herself
in lonely moments, mouthing the vague ache
of nearly-forgotten songs; and the poet,
stubborn about his sadness, will sit quietly
by the window, counting syllables at dusk.
But for now, let's leave them a little out of time;
let's leave them ringed in streetlight, a few steps
from home, voices raised against the dark.