By Hannah Shilling
If you could stop the clock — no music. So you make it a cakewalk and hasten on, sheets for the engraver, not bidding him ‘hurry, oh do, Barney’, because that’s impolite,
Except, after a minute or so, you do let him know of it,
Your absolute need and hastening.
—Done when it’s done, he replies.
Because Barney Chaskel does not hurry and he makes no mistakes.
With another tap, the pewter is punched, the ring of the cloche, the metal, the scoring, he’ll move on to whatever next will be, helping, a midwife, with Scott having birthed a quartet of triplets, these written by a pebble skittering across water,
Slowing, slowering, rallentando,
With a signature that ‘ll be worth something, crescendo, some day,
But beware, subito stringendo,
Time is no friend to anyone, what with the inevitable to consider.
Massachusetts, Mississippi, Mississauga, maiden,
Quintessential, deferential, alleluia, laden.
On 29th Street, hive of all activities, the walkers hurry, costers, carters, criers vie to sell, the elevated train rips through polka,
Except the grocer opposite,
Not the Goods of All Kinds kind of grocer,
The sparse grocer, with his kindling, ice and potato sort of grocery, just these, lolls there at bunco
— four hours in the afternoon —
With his slow friends, the other depleted men, and they sure not got the success tempo:
Percussionist, perimeter, balletomane, descend,
Invincible, oblivious, kaleidoscope, forfend.
Bring Sugar Tree Stomp to the gravers and Barney’ll never ask:
— Did you mean that?
Because he is blind to the music.
Sure I meant that. A flat, accidental to the key.
He has another measure measured; though he hears it, we all hear it, some are blind to it, cannot read it. Barney just stamps it out.
Time presents a blind monster.
Throw up the dice and defer? Made of sterner stuff, Scott ‘ll race against old Nicodemus, risk a beating at thin hands — he’ll race against death to complete the opera.
But the clock ticks unthinkable,
Scott fumbles a waistcoat button,
Scott is giddy when he asks himself the way home,
A soda, the reddest of cherry ripe, jumbles up the throat a bit when knocked back; Scott coughs and recovers.
“I must be going,” and picks up his New York Evening Telegram, makes his change his own.
A nod for the soda jerk.
“No, I really must be going.” And the shopbell t-t-inkles behind him, the dancing hours make euphonic sounds.