• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 11
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for a night at peace

the film against the window beats out a steady rhythm
the thrum of a finger laid against glass
the successive sound of a drum beat
don’t forget me, it calls
to those settled into the dark red plush of the seats
they’ve left their suits
caked with a thin dose of the same film
in the coatroom
hung below their gasmasks
shifting signatures scrawled across the foreheads
reminiscent of labels carefully inked out in sharpie
onto the bleak white collars of childhood shirts,
these reminders have been shed
so the velvet of the seats can rub against silk, satin, and tulle
when you only leave the house once in a fortnight
you’ll use any excuse to wear your finest

it’s tedium first
long winded presentations on the state of the air
                                    new emergency protocols
                        who in the community has succumbed
all of the business must be laid out first
and yet, even with the necessity of the information
it's hard to pull people from their homes with the world in such a state,
            she’s their one excuse

the theater lights dim after the projector clicks off
and illuminated in a single spotlight
silver fabric spilling off of her knees
hair restrained in a single tight bun
she sits with the harp between her knees


for a night at peace

the harp is a heart
a muscle strung on strands of notes
tugged tight on sharp wire when she sets her hands to play
for the time it takes
twenty minutes at least
sometimes spilling out into an hour
      there is silence

the audience finds a hand slipped into their chest
clutching at their ribs
simultaneously weighing down and lifting their heart
for the time she plays
            there is calm

applause has been weaned out of their responses
confronted with so much choking and decay
that happiness can no longer bring their hands together in gratitude
when the last note brings a hard hand to their heart
settles into the carpet and dissolves into mere memory
            there is silence once again

it seeps into their socks
licks the lobe of their ear like a forgotten cat
stretches the knuckles in their fingers when they shift to standing
filter out of the theater
zip back up their suits
rescue their masks
make the dash from the front door of the community center
to what they still deign to call home
      until it is just her and the stage

she lays her hands once more against the strings
alone with the silence of an expanse of empty space
and with the accompaniment of that thrum of film at the window
she begins a song just for herself
she begins a song to birth smothered hope back into the air