Anne Atik
Music on the Winter Solstice—Three Movements



The shortest day of the year, and she—

he? all right, I—count up the days,

count up the days till the oh my lord the end

of the year, penetrant with cold,

such is the climate of solitude,

and one's own story—one's? whose?

his? hers? nearly told.

Prefaced, postfaced, edited

with time's red pencil, then enclosed

in a self—addressed correctly? stamped,

wrinkling envelope.

The new year smiles, a jogging starlet,

and will, mark my words, outshine the old,

and the older stories—outs, theirs—

get darker with each year they're told.




Only to music

do our lives leave their tenses, like shoes,

outside the door.

Leave their gender on racks above the seat;

our skeletons keep us from lurching.

Only to music

unwrapping our senses, do yesterday, after, before,

this year, next year, morning or night,

imply more than our own extinction

as they rotate

with the heavenly bodies,

as music's time helps us endure

our time, its pauses,

while we sit facing one direction,


or stand conducting to no one

but ourselves becharmed,

to etch it on grooves in our brain.

Themes gestated in another,

we feel born of our outpourings,

our own wrist and index finger.

Notes take their places in black-tie

or white, like an orchestra, one by one;

curtsy to music's Rome, 

bow to its Jerusalem,

all bells a-gong.

Rhythm grabbed by its feet—                       gotcha!

running in some ancient Ambrosian hymn,

Berlioz, Gershwin or lullaby,


as humanly simple, unforced a gesture

as licking a thread on the tongue

to ease it through a needle's eye/




The shortest day.

Solitude talks itself hoarse.

People are going home

with their perfect and pitiful human plumbing,

with their pleasure havens, sewage, gender, blood

pressure, time.

Theirs, yours, whosever, mine.


One's story—whose? does it matter?

one's gets set

in meters composed

of the years that lived with their narrator

till presto then largo they finally burst

the self's glued envelope.

I hear their cries compact the air.


And yet they—only I?—can just feel hope,

feel it, know it will declare itself—

feel it like the hoof

in a pregnant mare.


Though stories get darker each year

and darker

they're told.

Found In Volume 26, No. 05
Read Issue
  • anne atik
Anne Atik
About the Author

Anne Atik is the author of three books of poetry, Words in Hock (1974), Offshore (1991) and In and Out of Season (forthcoming), Drancy (1989). and How It Was: A Memoir of Samuel Beckett (2001). Her poems have appeared in PoetryLiterary ImaginationPequodNew World WritingThe NationLondon Jewish QuarterlyPartisan ReviewPloughshares, and Fulcrum, among others. She has translated Aimé Césaire, Raymond Queneau, Apollinaire, Jules Supervielle, Gérard d’Houville and others. From the Hebrew, she has translated the poems of T. Carmi.


She lives in Paris.