Juliek's Violin

Cyrus Cassells

Even here?
In this snowbound barrack?

Suddenly, the illicit sounds
of Beethoven’s concerto

erupt from Juliek’s smuggled violin,
suffusing this doomsday shed

teeming with the trampled
and the barely alive,

realm of frostbite and squalor,
clawing panic and suffocation—

Insane, God of Abraham,
insanely beautiful:

a boy insisting
winter cannot reign forever,

a boy conveying his brief,
bounded life

with a psalmist’s or a cantor’s
arrow-sure ecstasy—

One prison-striped friend
endures to record

the spellbinding strings,
the woebegone—

and the other,
the impossible Polish fiddler,

is motionless by morning,
his renegade instrument

under the haggard weight

of winter-killed, unraveling men.
Music at the brink of the grave,

eloquent in the pitch dark,
tell-true, indelible,

as never before,
as never after—

emending beauty,

linger in the listening,
truth-carrying soul of Elie,

soul become slalom swift,
camp shrewd, uncrushable;

abundance, be here, always here,
in this not-yet-shattered violin.

Last updated September 26, 2022