Wednesday, March 24, 2021

The Cello by Ruth Padel

The Cello

I met him in the courtyard at dusk, where they weave the tents
at Sukkoth—a wanderer who had come into his own.
The olive tree had been hard-pruned along its central branch
and only the tips were in leaf, gray fingers stretching to light,
but you could see the new growth, a haze of turquoise rust. Roots
had blistered the sea-pebble paving into a mound like a verruca.
I thought of the black ceramic bird my mother notched
in the center of her pies, whose yellow beak cracked the crust.
He had a cello in his hand. The grain glowed peat-swirl
brown of a mountain tarn, but plum-maroon under the f-holes
as if someone had been at it with mammoth blood.
The spike glittered between one round stone
and the next. Take this, he said. I’m giving it to you.
I looked away, at marble grooves framing the half-dome
niche where a tap hangs over the copper cup chained
to the wall. I ran my finger down the neck and scroll.
I imagined lifting a handle stuck to the lip of a broken amphora
face down under the tree, like history keeping a lid on rising
roots. Every choice is a loss. The past is not where you left it.
That corridor you didn’t follow, the gate to unknown
woods, shadow grin of a winding stair, the door you never
found time to open—they whirl within, cracking the floor.
I met him at twilight where they put up the tents at Sukkoth,
a wanderer who had come into her own.

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