"Alaap"

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

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