1791: St. Paul’s Cathedral
Dressed for rejoicing in red jackets,
we climb the sides of the organ
to reach the knobs. I yank out a note,
mix in a fifth, an octave, add eerie flutes
and a buzzing multitude of strings.
George grins, tugging the bass flute
like a helmsman on the Thames.
I prefer the celestes, but reeds are best
for angelic trumpet blasts.
It’s like dancing with thunder,
scrabbling over the groaning deck
of a pitching ark to scale the mast,
Jacob climbing his ladder of light.
No reason for Franz to put on
that somber face. Look at Papa, who is –
how could he help it? – smiling
as we scoot along, poised for his nod
to release God’s glory into the air.
Understand, all music is physical.
Bassoons rattle bones; a violin tweedles –
and like a tooth biting down on a sweet,
pierces the brain. But the organ
climbs into your chest, squeezing
as it shudders – a great lung
hauling its grief through the void
until we can hear how profoundly
the world has failed us.