Standing in Difficult Music

Difficult Music
by Melissa Tuckey 

We sleep with intention
We close our eyes and what enters the dark
place that is the body begins repair

Like paper from lint we carry in pockets
we open cautiously one to the other
accordion of dust on the air

The violins of sleep play through us
We tunnel through houses open doors
looking for whatever it is we lost in daylight

River's flashing current
Body's bright mill turning grain to dust
~From Tenuous Chapel, ABZ Press, 2013

Difficult Music. Could this be the title to the theme song for my life? That's melodramatic, I know, but nonetheless, this title pulled me in and the first stanza sucked me into its beautiful whirlpool. I'm already willing to drown in this "dark place" so I can be healed. That I can sleep with intention and trust what enters the dark place that is the body so it can begin to repair, well, that good news is a salve to my spirit. 

No, this isn't a proper book review, but I offer it all the same. I'm a latecomer to Melissa's gorgeous collection Tenuous Chapel, chosen for ABZ Press' First Book Award by poet Charles Simic and published in 2013. Actually I'm still reading it but keep coming back to this poem, unable to go forward until I absorb all of its medicine. 

This rather short poem, just four stanzas and 11 lines, is one I love for its potency and its brevity. And the book is filled with these gems. Each poem creates its own world, some paintings, some songs of life, and others mystic messages that capture the soul.

My soul needs capturing these days and maybe yours does too. These days of unending wars, mass shootings and daily murders. These days of unbelievable callousness and hatred, even toward refugees and children on our own soil. These days of pretending that racism doesn't exist any more while our ghettos and barrios are still under siege and our for-profit prisons overflowing with men of color who committed petty crimes or are innocent.

It's these days that even as I speak out with different forms of activism, I also must retreat to nourish my being so I don't cry myself into a puddle of despair. One of the ways I do that is with poetry. Melissa says so much in the third stanza that describes the search for meaning in it all that I can't seem to shake:

The violins of sleep play through us
We tunnel through houses open doors
looking for whatever it is we lost in daylight

These three lines are gentle and powerfully stark at the same time. "The violins of sleep" are always playing in my mind, sometimes seductively so, and create a dark dream where I could lose myself, and often have, as I keep expecting to find the light I'm desperate for while I "tunnel through houses open doors." 

At the end of this poem, I'm reminded that all of us are sleepwalking part of each day, getting lost and perhaps found, and practicing endings to ready ourselves for ultimate, inevitable death. The death that takes us into the light as it brings us back to our beginnings from the soil and the stars:

River's flashing current
Body's bright mill turning grain to dust

And here it is at the end of the poem that my body feels the practice of dying and being reborn, that all the little deaths we experience in life do mean something. Really do teach us, even hold us, if we're willing to be that vulnerable. 

I want this difficult music to keep washing over me today. I need to reread it again and again so I can keep standing. 


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