Sheet Music (for Scott Joplin)

The secret of leaving things behind
isn’t names
branding the flanks of the world,
it’s footsteps.
It’s not the buildings they burn,
It’s the songs we hum
while we work.
It’s all the things that don’t make book.
Rain gnaws the edges of my small-town street,
baring cobblestone teeth.
Forgotten dance steps litter the dirt
in layers under the grocery store,
and I’m thinking about legacies
and the thin halocline
between living and dying.
Where am I on this river? How much time
before the salt trickles in,
pulling me home to the ocean?

Is time even a thing?
Scott Joplin haunted my YouTube today
and I was four again, my mother alive
and dancing in the kitchen. I’m almost 50,
a year older than the composer
when he died, syphilitic and alone
in a Manhattan psych ward;
tossed into an unmarked grave.

Here’s a recording
from his own fingers,
inscribed on player piano rolls
someone found in his basement
and auctioned on Ebay.
Polygon kaleidescopes
of pineapple sun-shards;
cascades through orange maples.
There’s nothing ragged about these
elite syncopations, crystal
fragmentations spinning in
solace, euphonic tonic bubbling
up from the shipwreck, sampled
on Dead Sea scrolls
from the akashic records
of a cardboard box.

How do stars get forgotten?
What hole in time’s pockets do they fall through?
The waves keep rolling; we’ve grown numb
to their rhythm, beneath the steady commotion
that fills our days.

What fragrance of us will live on
in sheet music?
What modular parts
of our dreams and arts
will rest in dusty places,
awaiting resurrection?

Why bother?
I don’t know why I keep doing this.
Spilling words—like rain on silent roads,
eroding my useful edges,
leaving behind dishes.

Maybe I’ll leave a trace.
Do I have time to sing?
(Do I have time not to?)

© Psyche Marks 2020

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top