Famous Magic Letter from the Daughter of W.A. Mozart


So this is how it happens —
forgive me for launching right in
but now you’re here and
no one knows how long —
I must race to tell it you
before the words
return to squiggles
and I am senseless.
When you weren’t here
the words were nauseated,
they lay like butterflies at the
bottom of a ravine, without breath
and clumsy, rapt in the dark.
It is a lie
that once the page
is pressed with ink
the idea lives forever.
Once the page is turned,
the idea falls asleep
and worse —
like as if the turning was a potion
of resplendent confusion hanging —
we are made numb.
So now it happens
and this was the story I meant to tell,
that when we are almost dead,
the doctor comes
and looks at us,
over our quiet limbs,
our bowed legs and damp arms
and excuses himself to the priest
who comes up behind. And he folds
his hand like a flower head and
pronounces his creed, his flower hand
waving over us saying tush.
And he takes the soft oil
on his fingers and rubs us,
takes the saucer
of water and pours it on our heads
and we have our new name.
But then, we die,
our Christian name
fresh on Mother’s red lips.
And comes back up the doctor
to take away our gown
and put on us the shroud.
The serving girl takes the thread
and sews it shut around,
and undertaker
puts us in his ready box,
lifts us downstairs into the street
on his litter, he and his assistant
guide us to the wagon
and away we go.
Mother is still abed with
towels pushed up between
her legs and crying.
This happens six times,
Mother giving birth to us
and giving us back,
four times straight away
after we were born
and two times some years later.
Undertaker’s wagon drives
us out the city gate
and because we aren’t poor,
the diggers lay us in the square
five across
and toss the quicklime
and rake us over
when the spot is full.
A few years later they
come and turn over the land
like they do at turnip time, fold
over bone and put new people
in the holed out space where we had been.
The priest comes and says
the consecration again
to make excuse for the disturbance.
And then you came
and started reading
on our behalf
and you are reading still.