Anne-Marie Thompson

Languages

 

I

Every Sunday, her mother takes her hand
and ushers her along the center aisle
like a tiny bride. She fears sinking sand,
worries about the bleeding Lamb, and quails

after the pastor warns of fated flames.
Her mother’s finger skates the hymnal’s wires.
The notes, stick people without any limbs,
make sounds. She cannot read, but knows the spires

above their printed heads mean shake the ceiling.
Slurs drawn on the page are like the water
in the baptistery, washing everything
to smooth-as-snow. These landscapes will not wither

or fade like the daylilies in Grandma’s field.
Years from now, opening a score, she’ll see
neat rows of pews, the choir loft, all filled
with voices striving toward sublimity.
 

II

Arpeggios rang in the practice room
for hours, as, stack upon resonant stack,
the echoed harmonies began to rhyme
inside her, fingers climbing up and back

from G to B, D, G, then on to A.
Her muscles memorized the pose for soft,
the shapes to make for Mozart, for Fauré,
hands hieroglyphs for sounds. In math, she graphed

vibrating frequencies as cursive sines,
and differentiated between x
and y by figurative form and sense.
She liked the sane precision found in each,

pure translation from the thinking quadrant
into the balanced music of the spheres,
or into the origin, the point the slant
of sloping hills completely disappears.
 

III

The sun has nearly set. She sits and watches
as it graphs its progress on the window.
The hours have ticked out of her life like pulses
of a metronome set to Allegro,

or, somehow, to an accelerando.
Now everything alludes to something else.
The arcs of time, drawn like the promised rainbow
across her forehead, are aged relatives

to all the parallels that plot her pasts.
She hears the overtones in all her chords,
and knows the figured bass beneath the parts
will always be the same bare ruined choirs,

the true perfection always imperfection,
like math or music without certainty,
grave voices reaching ever toward heaven,
like unsound proofs, tritones, like poetry.