Breath & Shadow
A Journal of Disability Culture and Literature
Breath and Shadow
Volume 12 Issue 1
Absurdity for Drum and Glockenspiel
By Robert L. Smith
While I've never actually seen
the offending instrument,
I've heard it often enough:
the high, metallic stammer
of the glockenspiel, like the oddly
disturbing song of some solitary child, wafting out of the JROTC room,
accompanied by a single faltering drum, as I leave campus by a basement
door at the end of the school day.
This afternoon's no different,
save for the fact that something
vaguely familiar about this mutilated music makes me pause a moment on
the threshold, searching my memory.
All at once I have it:
here is the transcendence
of Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring--
more suited to fluted columns and stained glass-- reduced, in youthful
hands, to the merely mundane, the melody earnestly stumbling toward a
Heaven that, at the moment, seems more remote than ever.
By Robert L. Smith
i.m.: VictorLeonard Buxbaum, 1961-2013
Somehow I know, even as it's happening, that this is a dream. Beyond
its borders, in the waking world, you are still dead:
five months now. In the convoluted logic of the dreamscape, I am
living again downtown in the apartment on Sutter, somewhere I
shouldn't reasonably be.
Although you were Jewish by birth,
Buddhist by inclination, you seem to
have attracted a sort of cult following, old men in black, gaunt as
priests, who come knocking on my door, their thin beards soft as spun
sugar in the hallway light. They want to offer me a reliquary
where in repose twisted metal fragments of the car that ran you down,
the shredded steel still jeweled with your blood; they proffer for
my perusal icons in which your face with its dark eyes and
aquiline features is the stylized visage of the Orthodox Christ, like a
specimen preserved in amber: calm, conveying neither accusation
nor forgiveness, expressionless beneath a shroud of silence.
Raised in New Jersey, Robert Lavett Smith has lived since 1987 in San Francisco, where for the past fifteen years he has worked as a Special Education Paraprofessional. He has studied with Charles Simic and Galway Kinnell. He is the author of several chapbooks and two full-length poetry collections, the most recent of which is Smoke In Cold Weather: A Gathering of Sonnets (Full Court Press, 2013).