She scrapes bow across strings whose low moan rises to a shriek. Her elbow a piston, it turns the wrist in a blurred ellipse that frees a cry, a frenzy. Two boys appear from behind the stage, leaping sideways across the brush that separates this place from the garden plots where an old woman in a headscarf shambles between rows watering broad petals of cabbage. One of the children waves a stick like a flag. His face is a wide grin that says, see me, see me.
Another boy in a man’s body perches on the edge of a chair on this portable stage. Shaggy hair falls across his forehead as he leans into the music. He is from Ireland and lives in Portland where he has his pick of women. He does to the accordion what Kobe Bryant does to a ball. We call this thing “playing,” this version of play unlike anything the rest of us will ever experience.
Bent at the waist ever so slightly, he gazes far off towards what must be the west where a weary August sun peels back the day’s skin and exposes the pink, swollen flesh of dusk. The grown boy’s fingers are dervishes in harmonious riot, balletic and blind, somehow whirling an unbroken ensemble piece on that tiny stage of keys. I look where he is looking — in the direction at least because what he sees is all his own. I want to imagine his eyes fixed on a montage of hills, rain, soil-scarred hands lifting open a latch and reaching for him. Just as likely, behind his eyes growls a gauntlet of fractured traffic between the airport and the next gig. Or a dim wash of notes. When I look that way, I see only the deep outline of trees against a sky now a garnet throb.
Then the breath, the snared half-second of surprise when bow and key and string and drum, all stop —
it’s only a pulse of the heart yet it stretches, stretches like the still air across embouchure, its reverberation through a valley of brass. It stretches like a quantum measure that is neither real nor measurable. Swelling up into that pause (which may be the end of all history and also may not contain a single new beginning) surges the cry of cicadas thick in the shadowed branches. Through the crack too flaps the leather wing of one bat dipping for a moth then careening off, this also in the direction our accordion boy looks but doesn’t see. Not what I see see anyway, and certainly not what the bat sees, though his vision may be closer to that of his chiropteran brother, a sightless echoing that delineates a terrain through sound, through a chorus of shape and motion. Maybe he draws a whole universe like this, one round, rapid beat after another firing across a field of night.