Farewell by Galway Kinnell
after Hayden's Symphony in F-sharp Minor
for Paul Zweig (1935-1984)
The last adagio begins.
A violinist gets up and leaves the stage.
Two cellists follow, bows held straight up, cellos dangling.
The flutist picks her way lifting her flute high as if to honor it for its
pure hollow notes during the incessant rubbing.
Soon the bassoonist leaves, then the bass fiddler.
The fortepiano player abandons the black, closeted contraption and
walks off shaking her fingers.
On going, each player stoops at the music stand and puffs
the flame off the top of the stalk of wax
in which fireweed, flame azalea, dense blazing star stored it a summer
adding that quantity of darkness to the hall
and the same of light
to the elsewhere where the players reassemble,
like birds in a beech and hemlock forest just before first light,
and wait for the oboist to arrive with her reliable A,
so they can tune and play
the phrases inside flames wobbling on top of stems in the field,
and in greenish sparks of grass-sex of fireflies
and in gnats murmuring past in a spectral bunch,
and in crickets who would saw themselves apart to sing,
and in the golden finch atop the mountain ash, whose roots feed in the
mouths of past singers.
By ones, the way we wash up on this unmusical shore,
and by twos, the way we pass into the ark each time the world begins,
the orchestra diminishes, until only two are left: violinists
who half face each other, friends who have figured out what they have
figured out by sounding it upon the other,
and scathe the final phrases.
In the huge darkness above the stage I imagine
the face, very magnified, of my late dear friend Paul Zweig,
who went away, into Eternity's Woods, under a double singing of birds,
saying something like, "Let the limits of knowing stretch and diaphanize:
knowledge that leads to purer ignorance
give the falling trajectory its grace."
Goodbye, dear friend.
Everything on earth, born only
moments ago, abruptly tips over
and is dragged, as if by mistake,
back into the chaotic inevitable.
Even the meantime, which is the holy time
of being on earth in simultaneous lifetimes, ends.
This is one of the its endings.
The violinists drag their ignorant bows across
their know-nothing strings
a last time, the last
of the adagio flies out through the f-holes.
The audience straggles from the hall and at once disappears.
For myself I go on foot on Seventh Avenue
down to the small bent streets of the Village.
From ahead of me comes a hic of somebody drunk,
then a nunc, perhaps of a head bumping against a lamppost or scaffolding.