Practice Poem By Meg Schoerke

Practice Poem By Meg Schoerke

With studied ease they take their places, withdrawn
as they tune, tensing each timbre into cool accord,
as if unaware of the listeners hushed
in the basement shadows. Like gifted scholars
bent over rare scrolls, who construe impossible
syntax and syllables, the men exchange
notes, offhand jokes, dispute each other’s
radical phrasings and interpretations,

absorbed yet giddy as they annotate,
hour after hour, their casual commentary
and practice, more than the music, the pose:

to harden their hearts when the chords turn sweet, to gaze
into each other’s eyes alone, they need
wives and lovers, apprentices and friends
there to give steady praise, so that when strangers,
fiercely intent on each improvisation,

rejoice, the men will stiffen and turn inward,
impassive—as if still practicing—on stage.

But now they need to school themselves in the mystic,
ways of inattention, attentively,
changing a guitar string, rifling through
the fake book, looking past the listeners rapt
outside the circle; almost inured to those who come
night after night to hear them, they solo above
the constant, inarticulate drone of love.

Meg Schoerke
first published in The Hudson Review, vol. 55, no. 2, Summer 2002

Practice Poem By Meg Schoerke

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