Pam Uschuk

Issue #
September 6, 2013

Kasia Plays Bach

                   for Katarzyna Sokol


Across the butt of a violin that scars her neck
with raw-mouthed wounds, Kasia
smooths a soft white cloth just before

                           Bach seizes her strings
squeezes air from the hall, quickening us
to believe in the wet dreams of blossoms, sweet
agony of tulips slashed by rain
or cliff swallows taking needles of twilight
into their open beaks, stitching
sky’s ripped hem.

Each note’s small coal singes our skin.
Oh, to know the jagged brink of beauty
is to touch the white teeth of madness
and the fine art of licking blades in dark rooms.


Silk flame, she dares
the heart of mahogany desire.
Silver-sequined, her skin flickers
smooth as olive oil, lips
swollen Polish cherries,
this symphony loving the length of her body
as it is consumed
in snowlight,
the full moon of our broken hearts,
transforming ennui to soul shrieks of terror and joy.

Astromerea and white mums,
red velvet vulva of roses
                         hum in the humming light
as this music lifts only to drop us
               shattering like crystal glasses
thrown onto the stone cold hearth of our loneliness.

What we inhale is strangled
as the breathing of horses in a winter pasture.


The second movement begs us not to die,
           music of our grandmothers, notes
thick as birthblood on white sheets,
sharp as the crack of firing squad rifles,
whispy as the swish of scythes
in Slavic fields of barley and black rye buzzed by bees.

Music of our grandfathers, stern
as ice on birch trees, soft
as their hands in drawing rooms, crackling like new snow
under sleighs, the thrum of running hooves.

Didn’t our grandmothers cry as they lit candles
left in winter windows crazed by Baltic wind,
melting before icons of saints
who forgot to answer prayers
or intercede on behalf of sunlight
to save land licked by sky’s gray tongue?

Bach and your bow skates across strings
                                            l like longing echoing between
constellations written in the cold space above the heart.


When a woman makes music, leaves
swing and the flights of larks
alter as they wing above cattails
and the buds of chestnut trees.
When a woman makes music, the course
of the river shimmies
free of ice as passionate stones
unbury their long grief.

When a woman plays music, small bones
in the wrist ache, and the necks
of crocuses crack

When a woman makes music, glass
windchimes of fortune ring ecstatic in wind,
toss black roses on bedcovers with each deep tone.


If air could speak, it would be most articulate
in the pleading of high C. Who among us
can resist sorrow borne by an extra string,
what collarbone hold the galaxy of such need?

Does the flame understand
the lead weight of light it casts to shadow?

Even the lips of astromerea and lilacs open
moist as iceshine, swollen
as flooded loam, breastbone and pelvis
tumescent while skulls
empty themselves to night’s calyx.


It is as if a flock of hummingbirds
has swarmed into the concert hall, begging
forgiveness from the mouths of trumpet flowers
whose nectar they drink to live.

When Kasia plays, stars holds their breath-
she can hear them hissing—then sheer
like mortars exploding the shrapnel
of passion through each body in the room.
Instructed by the singed fingers of dark angels, hope
marries fear, each note a prayer
and a summons,
a razor, a kiss
tipped in blood.

This house is made of music
speaking the language of flames, house
going to ash but never destroyed, house
crackling and dying and whole.

Violinist, your prince is the molten center
of your own passion’s instrument.
Even roses lose their color
to the tintinnabulation
of Bach’s last bars trust across taut strings.

If whole notes could fly, these
would be cranes
                         made of iron and lace.

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