After Luciano Berio's Epiphanies
1/The Boxer
Bandaging tape swathing his hands,
boxing the strings hard with a bow,
the cellist grips his opponent's neck-
a stranglehold- the cello a ghost,
the sheet music a battlefield.
His cauliflower ear throbs
savage beauty into Berio's score.

2/The Ghost
Disputes between chimes, Chinese
gongs, whips, and spring coils
are lost upon the bassoonist whose
teeth clench the thin double
reed, her black blouse's high
collar tightly laced as she wills
a ghost to life. Cencerros stampede.
Eyebrows riding surprise, she tastes
grocery salt and hardpan clay.

3/The Green Grocer
Windowpanes darkening,
a lemon-yellow voice reflects
Africa's bright agony over
the lack of shade trees.
Fruit draped for the night, the green
grocer raises her voice, raises
umbrellas large as attics.

In the dark an elephant tumbles
over tubular bells. Berio himself
did not expect this. Though the snares
and wood blocks are spaced far
apart on stage, the savannah
lacks breadth. The tonnage of notes
builds, unstoppable, lumbers into
the night, blue, purple, black.

Dave Seter