An exercise: they pass the paper cup from bow to bow.
The teacher tells her student, All is memory—
how fingers clasp the wood so they will know.
We learn by doing, especially when things don’t go
the way we might have wished. Technique isn’t accessory;
it’s the calloused fingers mastered by the bow.
Full measures laid upon the flesh: no time to cringe from what we know.
We’re here, we’ll pass; but must believe there’s more than misery.
Within this kitchen’s quiet chill, I clasp you and I know.
The days, soft grey, will fill with signs presaging snow;
but music sifts through branches still, more etched than scenery.
We’ll gather kindling with calloused fingers mastered by the bow,
then fill the cups with warmth. Filched comforts might bestow
a moment’s ease, could knit affections with no boundaries.
The soul remembers what it clasped, so it would know.
As many times, repeat the lesson till the sinews know.
Exacting teacher, your syllabus is the fragmentary—
We pass a flame like breath from bow to bow
and clasp the wood as lightly as we know.
In response to small stone (166).