The famous doctor said you haven’t really lived
till you get a death threat from a guy with a cell phone
just over the state line, someone who maybe read about my work,
found it sinful, against his principles,shaking the foundations of
whatever it is he called his religion or ideology. But I felt
much better when the cops paid him a visit, and he faded away.
With you, it was the phone calls from a harpist, slight and pale,
ebony-haired, tearful.She looked at you across the wide desk
covered with case files, foolscap pads, ball point pens.
She told you her father had died and her husband had left, wanted
nothing more to do with her. You counseled her to mediate.
When she got home, she phoned the office for hours, starting at midnight,
careening along into dawn. Twenty-five messages on the tape
each more high-pitched and insistent, her voice growing hoarser each time
letting you know just what miseries she’d visit on you. And yes, she knew
you had children, and she had them, too, in her sights.
A couple drinks later, you stood behind home plate at your son’s little league game,
trying to forget about it, wondering what she thought when the police
hauled her away to the cold hospital room.
You told someone the story, then told someone else, hoping it would amuse.
The police said not to worry. Her psychiatrist said it’s just disordered thinking,
But she wouldn’t give blood samples, take meds, insisted
the judge come to the hospital, where she sat, docile, polite,
hands folded, refusing treatment.
Wait another ten years, your friend said, pointing to the ball her son knocked
out of the park into the woods. You’ll laugh about it, you’ll see.
Months, perhaps years later you chanced to see her on stage with her instrument,stroking the harp so gently, pulling sweet tones from the strings,
steel core with wire wrap.
You glanced down at the program, ran your thumbnail under her name,
Wondered that she found her way back from four point restraints,
soft, padded, leaving no marks.
She’s better now, you thought, settling back in your seat,
Closing your eyes, fighting hard to let the music engulf you.
Originally published in The Song Is…