At night, he chose one of his 1,732 cassette tapes
(we counted), each mixed by his trembling fingers on
an 80's boombox, and he released the ancient melodies
from the tongues of modern singers, and he waited for
the alaap,* when the artists surfed between word and melody.
When he could no longer resist, Grandfather launched
and followed them into those waves — but never for long
because his breath could not carry him across the barrel,
and the air would leave him, mid-stanza, and his body would
lurch, and we would wait — does he need his inhaler?
— until he broke the surface, caught a rope of breath,
then moments later, launched again, paddled from his
nubby orange chair through the grand foyer, up through the
skylight, and into the swell, until, inevitably, he sank to the
Oriental rug and the tyranny of an aluminum walker.
They say Rebirth brings justice, so surely, this time around,
he is sovereign of the air and monarch of the movements
that once eluded him, no mere starling, but a murmuration,
no mere minnow, but an entire school of fliers —
surging, rippling, coiling like incense, leaping to light.
* melodic improvisation in classical Indian vocal music
"Alaap" first published in Wild Musette