Always, in that season, came the point in the day
when our conversations faltered, the celestial musicians
took a break between sets, and all the little engines
we had so painstakingly gathered and constructed
lapsed into stillness for a few brief moments,
and around us – for nature will not tolerate a vacuum –
rising like a horde of flies from the neglected fields
and scattered pools of stagnant water there arose the sound
that filled our atmosphere like the drone of some far-off
crop-duster, like a universal headache, like the decrescendo
moan of a piano that has fallen to the street
from some high apartment window like a smashed and ruined body.
We pretended as if none of us could hear it, which is what
humans do, and retreated like monks, each into his own
private interior garden, the gate
of the eye glazed over and locked shut. We knew
that it would pass (though we knew, too, the time would one day come
when it would not pass), we knew that for the moment there were comforts, crossword puzzles, silly board games to be played,
tea waiting at home to be poured into bright blue
porcelain cups, giving off a small puffy
steam-exhalation like a sigh of satisfaction.
These were promised to us. And the rest of what life promised,
we simply would not speak of. But we never stopped hearing it
entirely, that groan, as of a vast collapsing heart.
That distant roar, that might have been the planet’s great slow turning.
That distant roar, that might have been the planet’s great slow burning.


Photograph by Moyan Brenn

Elizabeth McCracken | Interview
Music and Memory