Manhattan Noir

Stephen Gibson Click to read more...

sgibsonStephen Gibson is the author of five poetry collections: Rorschach Art Too (2014 Donald Justice Prize, West Chester University),  Paradise (Miller Williams Prize finalist, University of Arkansas Press, 2011), Frescoes (Lost Horse Press book prize, 2009), Masaccio’s Expulsion (MARGIE/Intuit House book prize, 2006), and Rorschach Art (Red Hen, 2001).   His work has appeared in The Paris Review, Ploughshares, and Poetry.  His collection in progress is “The Garden of Earthly Delights, A Scrambled Abecedarian.”

She played in a philharmonic; he was a handyman.
She was trained how to hold a cello by the neck
and draw a bow across its strings so that sound
made listeners leave this world and find themselves
in another that for most was impossible to express.
He strangled her to death backstage behind a curtain.

Her disappearance from others’ lives was like a curtain
suddenly being pulled across in front of them, a woman
who was so talented and alive. How do you express
what the loss of such a gift is, they asked. Her neck
was crushed. That’s what people repeated to themselves
when her murder was discovered, and without sound

they attended her memorial, and, except for the sound
of their own breathing, they stared at a stage curtain
with a large photograph of her which they themselves
recognized as if they had taken it of that young woman,
which showed her smiling, holding her cello by the neck.
Then they left, entered the subway, and took the express

uptown to parts of Manhattan—but even the express
could not take them away fast enough from a sound
that was only absence. He pressed down on her neck
with his thumbs as he knelt over her behind the curtain,
until her eyes almost burst out of her, a young woman
that he admitted not knowing. Family asked themselves,

why? Why did he have to kill her? They themselves
knew the answer—because he could. Because, to express
whatever was inside him, he strangled a young woman
he didn’t know but saw at times rehearsing in a sound-
proof rehearsal room. So he hid behind a thick curtain
hiding old lighting equipment. He grabbed her neck,

he admitted to police, and couldn’t believe that her neck
was actually between his fingers. His fingers themselves
seemed actually not to have any feeling, as if a curtain
had come between them and her. It was hard to express
what he felt at that moment, even as he heard the sound
coming from her throat as he choked that young woman.

In black dress, she holds the cello’s neck, trying to express
not only what great musicians themselves hear, but a sound
she believes lies waiting behind a curtain in every human.

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