by Ed Roberson
The definite number of notes in the symphony
to be played each had a jar, fired clay
but in all different shapes, one for each note,
a condor, a lizard, a monkey, a mouse, a woman
with birds for hair, a man with conch feet;
all were blown over a hole in odd spots
of their design; different patterns
on a fish blew a different tone within the
range of fish notes, and the same applied
to all the animals. One player to every note
made an orchestra. Each song had its particular
orchestra and order of breathing that exhaled
the note each player blew like an answer
to his name in a roll call all going down
the list for each note for each jar.
Most of the soundings together had other jars
as in fish with heron, pig with snakes sorts
of grouping which together made a body
that spoke its voice on internal meaning.
The whole history and literature of the people
of the jars was in their playing.
When the people suddenly disappeared
nobody remembered why all these jars were full
of holes and could carry nothing.
"New World Orchestra," from TO SEE THE EARTH BEFORE THE END OF THE WORLD by Ed Roberson. Copyright © 2017 by Ed Roberson. Used by permission of Wesleyan University Press.