- C Train Concerto for Two Cellos, with Cavafy, and: Ghazal of the Elegant Skull
C Train Concerto for Two Cellos, with Cavafy
After the party, I catch the C train with Max, and we sit next to a guy holding a cello case.
He leans on the cello case like I’d like to lean on Max;
instead, Max leans on me as the train slows down
and everybody tilts toward the next station. The doors open. A tall woman with shoulder-length
gray hair walks in, carrying a cello case. She sits down beside us, so Max and I
are sitting between two cellos, and we’re all laughing,
and I ask if she’s been playing, and she says yes but that’s all she says.
In the subway car of potential music, we will never know if anybody here’s
a maestro. The cellos’ vibrations are too low for us to hear—but I know the notes
must be there, humming off the motion of the train, a kind of song telepathy
settling into our bodies. In Cavafy’s “Che Fece . . . Il Gran Rifiuto,”
depending on the translation, whether you are one who says yes or no is predestined. [End Page 36]
I’ve lived my life inside the right No, compelled to love the cool, uncluttered fragment of a solo,
but I want to wake up next to Max. I’d like this feeling,
where everything he’s saying jives with everything inside me singing,
to shift my inner no to yes, if only for the span of this parenthesis,
before the train slows down again and rams me into the body of an old woman. [End Page 37]
Ghazal of the Elegant Skull
Safe in your death, your skull inside your grave, your dreams are blooms now; they colonize your grave.
Like moss on stones or rain on mud I’ve tried to sing to you. Your name elides your grave
with what’s alive: feast for the eyes— acres of yellow marigolds disguise your grave.
I loved you when you died. I still love you; though, like a vine, my roots divide your grave—
however many lovers gather in that shade, in every face I recognize your grave.
I caught your specter haunting your old letters. Tell me, what script will dramatize your grave?
When you were warm, and funny, and all mine, we moved in ways that would surprise your grave.
I liked to watch you run. Now I am no one’s. In June, the dark Atlantic amplifies your grave,
and I grow older, like a gray-eyed monk who lays her ragged bones beside your grave.
Your eyes were blue. Your illness made you punk. With love and drugs, we tried to bribe your grave.
Night descends, and shadows alter bands of azure ultraviolet. What lights the skies? Your grave.
Magdalene bent low and peered into the tomb: two wound-displacing angels belied your grave. [End Page 38]
Then what are you? You’re what moves, and you are everything but what’s inside your grave.
Say Katy loved and was loved, and safe in that unchanging fact, she’ll glorify her grave. [End Page 39]
katy didden is the author of The Glacier’s Wake (Pleiades Press). She earned a PhD in English and creative writing from the University of Missouri. She has published poems in many journals, such as Image, Poetry, 32 Poems, and the Kenyon Review. A former Hodder fellow at Princeton University, she is currently an assistant professor at Ball State University.