artwork: ralph murre
by James Reiss
A man wets his forefinger with his tongue and holds
up a perfect water glass, empty and glistening.
He is sitting at a table in a large
hall with other men in identical blue
blazers with eagle medallions over their breast pockets.
Now the first man fingers the glass
rim, tentatively, as if it were jagged-edged.
And now he strokes it clockwise, slowly, stopping
to wet his finger again and again, like an old
man paging through a book—until the glass
comes to life with a thin, high whine like nothing
he has ever heard, and the others look up in amazement, catching
on, holding up their glasses, too, wetting and stroking
them clockwise like ice skaters in unison.
All the glasses are coming to life now; their throats are
slowly catching fire, glistening with a thinner,
higher whine than any bird. It is like a pitch
pipe with wings. It is something like the music each
man heard when he stepped outside at night
for the first time alone as a boy. Then
there was nothing in the sky but stars and music.
And the sky was like glass.
~ first published in The New Yorker