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At the Empyrean Ensemble Concert, 2009

by James Tyner

There is no rhythm here, just chaos.
Man on the piano is pounding,
hand like a claw, braced at the elbow
and he’s jabbing noise out of that thing.
Violence, ripping the white keys
until it sounds like dishes breaking,
a whole kitchen coming down like rain.
The violinist, eyes closed, is in rapture,
her mouth an imperfect circle
like she had an orgasm and saw
Jesus at the same time, all pleasure
I’m sure. I leave at intermission.
It’s past nine at night, and traffic
is still bad, cars humming

like bird calls, orange of lamp posts
pleating the streets with light.
My wife is waiting for me
when I get home. We are trying
for a family now, she’s hoping
for babies, skittering of diapers
and bottles, rashes and chaos.
I don’t know all that.
But I do know her hands,
their smallness, birdlike, cradled
in my own, their weight on my chest,
as she undoes my shirt. That look,
as I enter her, of stillness, of waiting,
her mouth a half circle, just forming.

Half Mexican and half Caucasian, James Tyner grew up in some rough neighborhoods in Los Angeles and in Fresno, California. In his late teens, he decided to become a pacifist. His awards include the 2008 Coal Hill Review chapbook contest, the Larry Levis poetry prize, the Ernesto Trejo Poetry Prize, and the Andres Montoya Scholarship. His poems “At a Barbeque for R.C.” and “After the Artichoke Harvest” were nominated for Pushcart Prizes and his thesis was voted most outstanding thesis of 2009 from Fresno State University. Tyner was recently installed as the first Poet Laureate of Fresno.

Lead image: “in the hands of a woman” (via Flickr user .sarahwynne.)

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