When I met Vivaldi it was dark,
a ragman lashed his horse’s bells,
streets tilted into slow wind tunnels,
no, it was another night, in winter,
snow as soft as opium, two winoes wassailed
down an alley through a milk truck’s ruts,
in the subways a violin was whistling
down chrome tracks, past cobalt semaphores,
rats and pennies underneath the 3rd rail . . .
Has it never been so quiet that you’ve heard
the manhole covers rumble when the El goes overhead?
Icicles growing? Could you tell the difference
between the sound of filaments in light bulbs
burning down, and a dulcimer played in a padded cell?
A meager music hovers everywhere:
at mouths of drains, echoing stairwells
where girls in muslin disappear
whispering “allegro.”
When I closed my eyes,
less than a ghost,
Vivaldi cupped a mouth harp
like a match against the wind.

Stuart Dybek, "Vivaldi" from Brass Knuckles. Copyright © 1979 by Stuart Dybek, published by University of Pittsburgh Press. Reprinted by permission of Stuart Dybek.
Source: Brass Knuckles (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1979)
More Poems by Stuart Dybek