Rita Dove – Concert at Hanover Square
June 2, 1790. George Bridgetower and Franz Clement: child prodigies, of an ageDo not think for a moment
that we were boys. Souls
in a like anguish, perhaps;
or when in a fortunate instant
we forgot ourselves—gray mice
biting each others' tails,
rolling in the grass in our woolen knickers.
We did not understand how to covet.
We knew hatred
because we could smell it
all around us, it sang in the cool glasses
tinkling over our heads,
the carefully tended laughter,
the curious glint
of a widow's appraisal.
As for competition—ah, well.
Want was a quality I could taste,
music set my body a-roil,
I was nothing if not everything
when the music was in me.
I could be fierce, I could shred
the heads off flowers for breakfast
with my bare teeth, simply because
I deserved such loneliness.
If this was ambition, or hatred,
or envy—then I was all
those things, and so was he.
Two rag dolls set out for tea
in our smart red waistcoats,
we suffered their delight,
we did not fail our parts—
not as boys nor rivals even
but men: broken, then improperly
far beyond the province
of the innocent.
from Sonata Mulattica, W. W. Norton 2009
It's a good book. Buy it!
and listen to Professor Dove reading this poem.