Itzhak Perlman comes on stage.
Takes one step at a time slowly.
Reaches his chair and sits down.
Puts his crutches on the floor and unclasps his leg braces.
Picks up his violin, puts it under his chin, nods to the conductor.
And off we go. Mozart’s 4th Concerto: festive, bright, beguiling.
But then we hear it. A sound like a gun shot.
One of the strings has snapped.
I saw this happen once before.
Pinchas Zukerman was in town.
He exchanged violins with the concertmaster without missing a beat.
Tonight the orchestra stops.
Perlman takes a breath.
Signals the conductor to begin again.
I can see him re-composing the piece in his head.
Re-tunes strings to get the sounds he wants.
An old, yet new piece of music.
Variation on a Mozart Concerto in Three Strings.
Its finale. We are dancing.
We are done. On our feet.
The Magician smiles. Wipes the sweat from his brow.
Raises his bow to quiet us and announces:
“You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out
how much music you can still make with what you have left.”
An earlier version of this poem appeared in the April 2011 edition of Cyclamens and Swords.