Bach’s Great Theme
John Timpane is the Books and Fine Arts Editor/Writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philly.com. His work has appeared in Sequoia, The Fox Chase Review, Apiary, Painted Bride Quarterly, The Philadelphia Review of Books, The Rathalla Review, Per Contra, Vocabula Review, and elsewhere. Among his books is a chapbook, Burning Bush (Judith Fitzgerald/Cranberry Tree, 2010).
Before the sky caves in,
Before the rats overrun the trenches,
I need more information.
And I want it neat,
Not soft and mushy,
Given to polysemy and tropes,
But one-to-one correspondences
Between word and thing, idea or action.
Where are you in the space between thoughts?
Folded over maybe in many layers,
Launched out from being
But for a time erased.
I’ve listened too long to frowning fathers,
Feckless in their broken glass blandishments,
Their orders about the order of things.
It’s time to get real, mash out memes,
quantify the qualia, put ‘em up for bid.
Circumstance dictates itself,
But everything (all except anything)
Will shed dark on time’s history,
Leaving the best for last.
What we know as now
Is based on a true story
Told with toil and trouble,
A feast of false dreams recurring.
See the differences crawl out first,
Take note of their notices,
The abrupt abandonment of rule
By those involved, quiet statements
To the contrary impaled on iron spikes
Where they rot unattended,
Never allowed to happen again.
What is life? What is death?
And who am I to want either?
Here at the center of time,
With self-organizing systems
You are indifferent to the fate of the world.
I awaken to melancholy in the blankness
Of a hotel room, admitting the obscurity of dusk,
Searching for a cosmological constant
In the symbolic contents of my mind
Where mathematics can be imagined
Only as a form of grammatical mutation
Illuminated by imaginary light flexed
By victims of unjustified euphoria
Hanging limp as strange fruit outside.
Dusty strangers speak their songs,
Offering them outright for a chance to stay
Safe within the borders of creation
Where they’re warned to stay outside.
Hate traps abide like land mines around us
Inviting us in to the dark pleasure of being alike
So we can huddle together to build the heat we need
To annihilate our desire for the others who claim
To belong on the same ride through existence
Without buying the same ticket. We have plans
But they aren’t included, only measured
For the size of space they occupy and the time
They consume in the unnamed future.
Qualifiers tell us what to do
So as not to miss the climax
They say is our due,
Our holy remnant to hope for.
I want to be out on the wildest edges,
Frolicking with fingers flexed,
Ready for animal homilies to dissolve
Into the waiting, leaden gasses
Where beastly priests breathe
And toys fly off the shelf. Problem is,
There’s no here or there without murder.
Black-lacquered faces prepare themselves.
Recycled armies are headed for the front.
I exist too much. I
Don’t exist enough.
Who will be seated
When the music stops?