Poetry: Sudden Silence by Kurt Luchs

(for Adam Zagajewski, 1945-2021)

A certain music has stopped.
As when the voice of a bird
calling from a lone tree
grows suddenly silent
the moment you draw near.
We won’t have that tune again
except in books, where music goes to die
or sometimes to live.
I think yours will live
after a hush in the pine forest
and a pause and many tears.

A certain music has stopped.
A music notable for daring to be uncertain
during an age of official certitudes
when any question, however tentative,
was a political act.
In this as in a multitude of things
you were the father I would have preferred,
the older brother I never had,
the professor whose master class I did not take
but from which I learned anyway, stealing whatever I could.

A certain music has stopped.
You grew up amid rubble both physical and metaphysical,
which must be how you learned that a broken thing
can still be beautiful, like the human spirit
or the collapsing cathedral we call civilization.
For me and countless others
you became the reluctant choir leader
stubbornly continuing to sing in the ruins.

A certain music has stopped.
And perhaps now would be the time
to remember that music is also
the space between the notes,
the little silences that give meaning
to the greater silence,
the music that does not stop.

Kurt Luchs (kurtluchs.com) has poems published in Plume Poetry Journal, The Bitter Oleander, and London Grip. He won the 2022 Pushcart Prize, as well as the 2019 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest. He has written humor for The New Yorker, The Onion, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. His books include a humor collection, It’s Funny Until Someone Loses an Eye (Then It’s Really Funny), and a poetry chapbook, One of These Things Is Not Like the Other. His first full-length poetry collection, Falling in the Direction of Up, was recently issued by Sagging Meniscus Press. He lives in Portage, Michigan.

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