The nastiest lick in the whole damn repertoire
is in the first movement, the conductor said
to the first violin. A concerto like tonight’s is
a dream swell, a dark circus of fluted magic,
the nasty hell of your own difficult year,
the bright chorus of your own survival, awash
in a floral weave of ocean foam among the dreaming
musicians preparing for the nasty lick, their lips
tightened like fists, rusted knives in a deep inventory:
one blade for large game, one blade for short trees,
one blade for berries, one blade for gutting the whole
damn idea. We have, what the conductor would call
a repertoire: how to maneuver if you aren’t in tune,
how to bail when the wave overtakes you, when
the concerto has such mean licks you almost break,
the lights dizzy the fighter in you, but your repertoire
comes back to you in some animal moment, your breath
now in time with your instrument, and everything
aligns as it should: your glistening body healed from
the incision, your flawed key buried under your shining
knives, your favorite chapter, your go to song.