the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Elizabeth Haukaas

The Cellist

King of the luthiers, Amati replicates
his wife: her flamingo neck, the graceful swell of shoulders
belying her bulk, her abandon as he slides his hands
up and down without release, glissando. If only
he could know what fills her mind as he caresses
her body. How narrowly her waist nips in,
before the spill over gothic hips. How coarse to say
she's made for straddling but how else
can he embrace her
fully, feel her breath from deep inside
exhaled along his thighs as he holds her
between his legs. He loves her. Needs her
imperfections as he needs his wife's,
her amplitude immobilized by a single frail leg,
a poor prosthetic endpin unable to hold her up,
yet the men cannot keep their hands from her; Amati knows
he cannot. He dreams the oxymoron
long before the concept's coined — violoncello —
one for big, —cello for little, the big-little
violin; like his wife, the big-little girl who fools
everyone when she shakes her purse of low notes,
her man-only decibels, while she consorts
so easily with the frenzied girls
at the fountain, skinny sopranos buzzing around her
like violins. Don't tell her
her god's lesser; she'll never believe you —
she was married, before, to a cellist
not just a cello-maker. Late at night she'd listen
as his bow's sad saw mimicked the wind
slamming the gate: open, shut, open, shut —
she knew the yard would one day empty
but dreams, still, he'll come back,
would take him back, if only for the music.
Amati's a king by comparison — the way he worships her,
imagines her children, their greatness,
what greatness might imagine for them.



Back to Poetry