The Manufacture of Music

Go, cara, I can take it from here. Wait.
Leave your veil, a bit farther to the left
on your chair, as if it’s just fallen from

the lurking sky, a feather that worked
itself loose from Gabriel’s huge wings
or knowing you, more likely Lucifer’s.

Yes, I can work with that. You can go
back to your father’s sweltering bakery,
his impatient bark to swab your sweat

off his sweet panettone. Leave me alone
so I can disguise you, narrow the angle
of your nostrils, lengthen your earlobes

so our ordinarily reasonable cardinal
doesn’t get it in his head to burn me
at the stake for idolatry. Who, finally,

other than Raffaello paints martyrs
and saints famous for their hairdos?
St. Cecilia may have preferred death

by a blunt axe to sex with her young
bridegroom, but what lingering hours
she must have spent braiding her hair

for the occasion. When she was done
with her twiddling, the plaits inter-
twined like the voices of a madrigal,

and I swear no one was more amazed
than I was by the effect. What is that?
Something not sacred and not profane.

Something else. And Cecilia lets fall
her tambourine like an orange rind,
and all the manufactured mandolins

lie at her feet, broken almond shells,
when she hears music made of throat
and tongue. If only I could make that

noise with my knife, smearing blue
into raw umber, and not this mute
machinery. Angels have no quarries,

no saws to carve spruce for lyres, no
awls to drill flute holes, no tin mines,
no smelting pots. They may not even

have a god. What they have, bella
I can’t explain it. It’s an indescribable
complexion: complexion and velocity.

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