Letter to Singing

- after Paganini

How to play so each measure 
progresses: I am learning the notes

to a song called songlike or singing— 
 a sky that begins with slow clouds,

then layers and swells like a voice.
The melody is simple, intent 

on building sweetness from sorrow 
to sorrow. Where it holds and stretches, 

the sky is a pause before some small
change in time or weather— tremble

of leaf shadows on a trellis,  
the texture of an owl's call to its 

unseen mate. As soon as I enter the song 
I understand it wants nothing but complete 

surrender: flame that brightens as it burns, 
fermata that holds as long as it can until

it can't. The most pared-down 
passages are difficult to phrase; 

tenderness translates as the space
between the blade and the bone.  

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