David Armand

The moment before the strings suddenly snapped
free from his instrument’s smoothed surface
sending the sound of a shotgun blast
out from the pulpit and over the pews
outside, down the pigeon-cowled stairway
of the St. Louis Cathedral at morning mass
the boy behind the cello had his eyes closed
and was thinking of the time he got lost
in a corn field as a child,

                                    walking down
the rows and rows and kicking at the stalks
his three feet two inches a third the size
of the swaying stems: a maze of yellow-brown
surrounding him on every side but up
where the sky was blue, clear blue, and cold
but as the boy looked there and saw it getting dark
he ran the way he thought he knew was home
until it all began to look the same—
the stalks like living light poles on each side
confusing him, like the things around us do
when we’re young and scared and can hardly tell
the ground from rows of corn or evening sky—
and he started to call for his father, who broke
his way through the stalks until he was there

scooping his son up in his farm-hardened arms
and then held him snug against his warm work shirt
telling him, “I’m here, stop crying, I’m here” 
as if this was all that needed to be said
so that when the boy opened his eyes, he was back
in the cathedral and could see his father now
sitting in the pews with everybody else
not owing a thought to anything but faith—
faith his son would be okay, that this, like time
would pass and the noise of those broken strings
would fade away into the sanctuary
while the orchestra picked up where it left off
and the boy put down his bow and just listened then
as if nothing bad had ever happened to him.

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