This was written for Tom on the August night in 1975 when the world learned of the death of Dmitri Shostakovich.
Letter to Tom Roberts
I stopped reading books. Is that possible?
My eyes hurt. My doctor says there are no
pain sensors in the eyes
so I can’t explain
how there are appetites so huge, too huge
for books or words, thinking, anything.
Everybody knows that and hopes
to find an appetite soon.
Sometimes you have to do something drastic
slam something shut, books or eyelids
or you stretch a canvas just to rip it
apart, then listen.
The cicadas are buzzing now. One theory
holds that cicadas are born with exposed brains
very sensitive to the elements, so much
sensitivity drives them insane with buzzing.
This morning I heard the soft thud of an owl
dropping on a rabbit. I heard the clutch
of its talons, the animal gasp of breath, beating
wings then heat racing through food chains.
According to Shostakovich, the revolution
ends in silence. Listen to the 1905 symphony.
After the snare drums — machine guns — after
the bass drums — the mass of running feet
a fist beats inside a hammerless bell.