There was no music
on the written page

before white space
intervened between

words and sentences,
lines and stanzas—

and words were grateful
because it sometimes

lifted and carried them
when they leaned

into it, and the better
they got to know it

the more they admired
its immaculate condition—

which made them feel
all spotty, so they hoped

if they rubbed elbows
with it long enough,

something of that purity
would rub off on them,

they began to aspire
to music’s wordlessness,

since everything they did
was meant to point

to something beyond
themselves anyway—

maybe if they slowly dis-
appeared into the white space

no one would miss them,
they thought, in a fit

of longing and self-pity,
maybe they should retire

and leave the stage
to music’s unblemished

perfection—but as they were
clambering down

they saw that without them
white space was nothing,

their part in things was
modest but crucial—to

hang around outside
the jazz joint that looks like

a hole in the wall, urging
passersby to stop and listen:

there isn’t much to see, but
the music is really something.

Sharon Bryan

Sharp Stars
BOA Edition

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