Elizabeth Swados

1951 / New York / United States

Strange Music

Her music is strange
because the pen is a man's pen
and her fingernails are polished red.

Her music sounds strange
because men in powdered wigs
clanged on harpsichord keys.
While she brushed over the inside strings
with colored feathers.

Her music sounds strange
because when her lovers left her
she didn't suffer with a bow
over a bridge
in a corset and hooped skirt
but stretched a skin
over a hollowed log
and hit.

Her music sounds strange
because men pulled at symphonies
and cranked up their power
while she wandered the mysteries
listening for whispers.

If her music sounds strange,
it's because the feminine ear
catches the catch, the breath
between word and word and
builds her violent screams by
collecting centuries of rage for
never being heard.

It is too real.

If her music sounds strange,
it's because playing by ear
has that raw incendiary quality
that makes black heels tap flamenco,
that makes the keening and wailing at
dark seashores
during storms.
The sound of the voice now, free
once muzzled by a man's hand
breathing, telling
centuries of stories.
Strange and real.
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