by Peter Krumbach
The composer has inserted his head and upper torso
into the lacquered case of the grand piano.
Trembling harmonics rise through the symphony hall.
Opera glasses aim at his satin braided pants and black
swallow-tailed coat writhing under the open wing
of the Steinway. He resembles a mechanic
under a raised hood of a hearse. To the Chinese
delegation in the first row he looks more
like an obstetrician, or perhaps a lover
mining new sounds out of his inamorata.
Could it be his teeth plucking
the instrument’s taut bronze wires?
I am the insurance agent in row twenty-seven.
In my powder-blue tuxedo I compute for Lloyd’s
the worth of the man on the stage, gauge the risk
to his hands, his mind, the long neck of his wife
who hides in the loge behind the glasses and teeth
of the music critics. Last week I worked on the case
of a jowl-faced bishop who had fallen out of a treehouse.
This is so much better.
I shift to view the composer’s hands as they now squeeze
the wooden handles of a large pair of hedge shears.
The sounds rising from the piano grow percussive.
Sharp pops, snaps, and pulsating bangs, the man
almost completely hidden inside the instrument.
As the noises crescendo, the lights fade out.
The sole illumination left in the hall is the blue glow
of my pocket calculator. It is now that the audience hears,
for the first time, the composer’s voice, a low groan,
slowly rising and falling, until his lungs
run out of air.
When the footlights awaken, he stands in his full height
at the front of the stage, unharmed, arms out
as if eager to embrace the applauding crowd,
dozens of severed piano wires dangling from his fists.
Digits flutter through my head like doves, the man in tails
holds his pose and veers toward the loge, the strings
like an offering of Spanish moss.
Peter Krumbach was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia. His poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in such places as Alaska Quarterly Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Dunes Review, Fugue, Phoebe, RHINO, Salamander and Tar River Poetry. He currently lives in San Diego, California.