Journey to Narva; In the Silence of Cities

In the Silence of Cities

“We are each a note of music,” she says. “We must be tested against pitch and meter. They are absolutes. We are relative. We are made of them, but we fail. We alone can be melody. We must be sounded together. The listener won’t really recognize us, just the intervals between us-—that’s a perfect fourth! A minor third! The diminished triad! Two lovers—a whole note trill. That panicked serenity, as if someone healed from a deadly sickness—that’s the major sixth in the Lydian mode.”

She pauses, thinking. Will she say that you can make up signs to duplicate us? That children will practice us until their eyes turn square from boredom?

I love her so much it feels like an addiction: is that really acceptable? We are lying on the nasty mattress. We feel its flat buttons prickle against the small of our backs. It’s midwinter, past midnight, January lasts forever, and the city never ends. Vast avenues of Detroit, factories of Brooklyn, tenements of Tallinn. The landlord still heats with coal. We are covered in a film of pale ash. We smudge each other. The sour sheet rubs against our chins. Or: rubs against my chin. She’s lost in thought.

In the window beyond the open dimity curtains, dark snow is whirling, Allegro, then Andante, then Adagio, then Presto, again and again, theme, recapitulation and coda, in sonata form.

Could it be that the night sky suffers?