At the Chinese Opera
The room was saturated
with percussion: the silvery knell
of bells and chimes, the leaden
gallop of drums, gongs.
How fervent! you said.
I think it’s realigning my teeth!
I placed my finger in your mouth,
touched an incisor. I said, I think
it’s altered the rhythm of my heart.
The opera was Summer Snow—
a young widow is executed
for another’s crime.
We watched her swing
her long black ponytail
around and around,
keeping her executioners at bay,
and a shiver coursed down my arms
as she sang in a desperate,
screeching falsetto. The swords
sliced through the windmill
of her hair. She clattered to the floor
and all the drumming stopped.
Confucius believed sound affects
the harmony of the universe.
In that pronounced silence,
we felt a stirring in our chests,
our very cells shifting, buzzing
like struck tuning forks.
My heart murmured for a moment,
unsure of its rhythm. Finally
I coughed and it settled, and I prised
open my tight, clenched fists.