My marriage was a master class in musical absolutes.
Syllabus: variations on a single theme.
1. Every true composer must first be a pianist.
The piano is a percussive instrument
same as a drum, he told me,
manly as any silverback thumping his chest.
2. Only symphony or opera, only what the plebescite deems “classical”
merits the name of music.
Listen to this pop tune:
(sneering at the repetitive bass thumping of techno or house,
the snare solo interrupting the rock ballad)
Can you imagine any sound more emasculated?
3. Composing is not an art form for pussies.
Not when unzipped and whipped it out
is highest praise for the writing of a concerto.
Or believing your own vision mangled in performance
by flesh-and-blood musicians?
An erection attacked by a thousand paper cuts.
4. I understood:
To make macho sport of penning duets for Cello and Tenor
was a blow struck at childhood bullies
at jocks who called out “fag boy”
at the mother’s drunken boyfriend who’d once pressed his gun
into a small child’s hands—cold steel to toughen up
what hours at a keyboard threatened
to make soft.
5. I understood at last too:
(ordered to my knees, bare backside)
(strop pulled like a whisper from its satin case)
In such man’s logic, any woman’s body could itself become