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Circular Breathing
for Samuel Wagan Watson
There’s a man with dreadlocks playing the didgeridoo
in the Piazza di Santa Maria, and everyone is listening.
Kids sit by the fountain swapping smokes for laughs,
tourists lick gelati as they pass illicit markets,
belts, handbags, sunglasses, all made in _____________,
the place scratched off. Nuns halt, then the Carabinieri,
white gloves, black steel-capped boots glistening.
 
The crowd hems the young musician in,
faces glazed with wonder: from where could this
strange music have come? Surely not this hemisphere.
A drone as deep as yet unexcavated ruins, far older
even than the Forum: Armani, Ray-Ban, Dolce
& Gabbana, all sink at once into equivalence.
 
He doesn’t do the kangaroo, the mosquito or
the speeding Holden. Just the one dark warm lush hum,
the clean energy of circular breathing, lungs
and instrument the sum, familiar as the accordion
yet strange, as though not for money, nor just for fun,
but for reasons unknowable—some vast, unhurried Om.
 
I want to bolt up the stairs of the fountain
and claim that sound as the sound of my home—
but stop when I recall how rarely I slow to hear
the truer player busking in King George Square.
Memory kinks my measured walk into a lurch.
My stomach fills with fire. Far above cold stars wheel
around the spire of Rome’s oldest Christian church.