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BOOKS & THE CULTURE I Mostly Mozart Above the fountain’s brisk arpeggio the sky buckled through heat waves. In the hall the orchestra tuned up an angry babel of strings that amplified my solitude, each flutist playing in a separate din like Dutch or Hebrew speakers on a train, and like the passenger whose hush implies unwanted company is worse than exile while a voice sputtered curses behind me, paper spit like fire no EXIT sign some elbow poked my arm. Say it was reckless at least to leave new Bach CDs for traffic taxis, killer-bikes and endless limos sharks in the bay we swam across to get here to see musicians bind a .pony-tail, tuck in a shirt-front, talk, size up the crowd. Could the conductor tap them into order? Tonight we heard a double piano concerto. The artists, just divorced, slid into benches, and swayed before unmuzzled toothy jaws. Then cadenzas rose to the dome and soared while the pianists found each other’s eyes as we did. Stragglers blown about like straw were one. Applause came down like rain. Prayer Ending with a Phrase from the Psalms Here where loss spins the hickory’s dry leaves, rolls miles under wheels, and bleaches reeds that shone wine-red, I invoke a rose still rising like a choir, past its prime on a spindly bush that bore scant blooms, as I wake to hear a jay screech like a gate swung open, and see your hand enfolding mine on linen: teach us to number our days. Grace Schulman Grace Schulman’s poetry collections include For That Day Only, Burn Down the Icons, and Hemispheres. She is a recipient of New York University’s Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award for Poetry, a Fellowship in Poetry from the New York Foundation of the Arts, and two Pushcart Prizes, and is included in The Best of the Best American Poetry. “The Paintings of Our Lives” will be published by Houghton Mifflin in 2001. MAY 26, 2000 Schulman is author of a critical study, Marianne Moore: The Poetry of Engagement. An award-winning translator, she is Poetry Editor at The Nation; Distinguished Professor of English, Baruch College at C.U.N.Y.; and a former director of the Poetry Center at the 92nd Street Y. Naomi Shihab Nye THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23