No. 7


Ilya Bernstein  


I walked down Broadway whistling Schubert’s songs,
One after another, those familiar tunes.
My hands were in the pockets of my jeans
And I had my old army jacket on.

I crossed the sidestreets—some wider than wide—
And the melodies flew out from between my lips. 
I kept them rounded for many, many blocks,
Shaping those tunes in the hollow space inside.

I whistled the voice and the piano part
And passages of some songs I even sang—
Then I went back and whistled them again,
And then replayed them again, right from the start.

The swerve of Broadway carried me downtown.
I filled the air with small but resilient notes,
And I felt lucky, and tried not to step
On all those birds’ nests lying on the ground.


The song was painted with phonetics
And smeared familiar tones of voice—
Pronunciation’s own aesthetics—
Made us, the listeners, rejoice.

And in our throats we, too, repeated
The movements underneath the sound.
As one we breathed, as one retreated,
Until the next line came around.

It was as if the English language,
Exploring my ears, nose, and throat,
Probing my sinuses and larynx,
Left trails that I could later quote.

And a great rolling satisfaction
Went all around when with a grunt
The singer bore down for a second
On the initial consonant

Of the word “rock.” First it contracted,
Then it relaxed between our ribs.
Symbol and muscle interacted
And struggled in each other’s grips.

I opened my eyes for a moment
And felt my headphones with my hand—
Ah, sweet manipulated torment
That I will never understand!



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