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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Through a glass. By John von Daler

                  You pick up the little glass ball with its solid black base and shake it to see the miniature tableau.
Inside the toy globe you have loosened the pollens and petals of spring that now flutter from side to side, finally settling beside the concrete dormitory full of miniature people, scientists, students of literature, musicians, and political scientists. You spot inside the glass the couple arriving at the party of the physicists :
                They usually arrived hand in hand, carrying together their contribution to the potluck dinner, offering up their meaty dishes to the common cause.
                She was small, dainty, a little old-fashioned, with golden hair, braided and wound on her head in graceful loops and she was dressed in hooped skirts and ballet slippers. Her eyes were blue, yet not nordic; they made you think of Goths, not Vikings.
                He also was small, but very dark, with wavy black hair, dark skin and brown eyes. He dressed in tight blue trousers above pointed black shoes and an open, white embroidered shirt. Seeing him, you thought of Sicily and sun.
                Usually the parties would start quietly with greetings, small talk, and a drink offered by the hosts. The small apartments with their tiny balconies felt open and pleasant in the summertime. The sounds of other gatherings mingled in the evening air as melodious patter.
                Then they would eat: a rare mixture of national dishes from eight or ten countries reflecting the many nationalities and tastes of this group of physicists and their wives and girl friends. Copenhagen had become a melting pot since the time of Bohr; here the Nobel prizewinners and professors of the future met, worked, discussed - and partied.
                Unlike their contemporaries in other fields, physicists rarely talk shop when they party. Perhaps they know that no one outside of their circle could possibly understand what they might be saying to each other. So the violinist attended their gatherings without fear of feeling apart. They talked more about his things than he about theirs.
                Usually just before the dessert the golden-haired woman with the great blue eyes would turn to the violinist, first in silence with questioning looks. Then in her surprisingly deep voice, she would enquire about his life. Finally she would ask if he by any chance had brought his violin - and when he answered yes, she would finally say the words she always said at every party, Please! Please! Play Czardas! Play Czardas!
                Her husband would look up quietly, his fork in hand, a plate on his lap as the violinist unpacked the violin, rosined his bow, tuned the instrument and then started an improvised cadenza just to get some feeling of the czardas into his American fingers. Soon the sliding, the vibratoing, the thick and insistent sound of middle Europe would flow from the violin, first slowly, with rubato, later fast and unbridled, encircling their ears with melodies.
                Then she would put her glass and plate on a table, stand up from her chair, and begin to sway, her eyes closed, her arms outstretched. She was not a dancer, so she remained in one spot, but the melodies rippled through her petite body like a mountain stream plunging down from the alps.
                The Italian husband would sit watching his wife disappear into her czardas ecstasy. He might as well have seen her make love to another man; the release of all those feelings always frightened and angered him. At some point he would disappear out the door. The violinist would see him go and would start the descent out of the czardas and back to reality as the swaying woman returned to her normal movements and gestures.
                Where is Gianni? she would say, looking worriedly around the room. Someone would point at the door. Then she would follow him into the glowing Nordic night and the party would resume without them.
                Much later she and he would come back together, teary-eyed and pale. He would pull a sheaf of papers out of a pocket and ask for everyone's attention. Then he would recite the poem he had written on the lawn of the dormitory while he was waiting for his wife to return from her euphoria.
                The poem was always in Italian, one of the languages that could consist almost as well of notes as of words. Of the words Gianni spoke, only one could be recognized by a non-speaker and that was "amore" - and it resounded insistently in about every other phrase. His wife would stand before him on the floor of the little living room and like a small child would let the words of this man surround and capture her, pacifying and uplifting her at the same time.
                At the end he would look up with great, brown, wet eyes and then they would kiss and the violinist would begin to play a jig. 
               As the dark and light couple twirl around in the tiny room you put down the globe gingerly on the table before you and watch the night of those many years ago settle back into place inside the sphere. The Nordic sun takes a shy bow and steps behind the horizon leaving you and the glass in the harmonious darkness.

My book,
"Pieces"
is a czardas 
in words.
To buy it,
tap your feet
or the mouse
 on the picture
below.




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