Heard in a Museum: Sonatas & Interludes by John Cage

Written By: Michael Salcman

Temple bells in Ryoan-ji;

raked sand. The rake.

 

An ant

beats on a log;

thunder in Tibet.

 

Beneath a waterfall, the water gourd;

a broken necklace.

 

The clock made of confetti,

gray leaves, dented cans.

 

Sharaku’s actor advances his knife;

the gamelan screams.

 

Leopards in the jungle walk on

broken glass, pots and pans.

 

A cymbal wears mittens;

a toothless cylinder in a music box.

 

Sunset in Papua; sunrise

in Manhattan.

 

Out pops a ribbon and 30 screws

hidden in the strings. Steve Reich’s trains.

 

A bolt flies out of the piano frame,

the sound spills like soap.

 

A man with a monkey face

hangs before me; Rembrandt frowns.

 

Note to Self: will I live to hear this

more than once? Savor slowly.

MICHAEL SALCMAN, poet, physician and art historian, was chair of neurosurgery at the University of Maryland. Recent poems appear in Alaska Quarterly Review, Hopkins Review, The Hudson Review, New Letters, Ontario Review, Poet Loreand Rhino.

Poetry books include The Clock Made of Confetti, nominated for The Poet’s Prize, and The Enemy of Good Is Better (Orchises, 2011); Poetry in Medicine, his anthology of classic and contemporary poems on doctors and diseases has just been published (Persea Books, 2015).