Adagio

Adagio

 

It’s a Monday morning in September, 

Leipzig, 1735, in the coffeehouse 

Of Gottfried Zimmer. With no instrument

Except a quill pen, Bach is working

On his Concerto for Harpsichord in D Minor,

Second movement, the Adagio.

 

Having not slept well again, he is sipping strong

coffee mit Zuckre und Milch, unaware 

That in 275 years it will change the life

Of a banker in America working in a tower

On land that, while Bach sips

His coffee, is a vast, silent forest where

Deer graze not far from a trail 

Occasionally used by the aboriginal people

Of this country. In fact, he is not thinking

About the near future at all. It’s eternity

And counterpoint he has in mind as he steps

His measures deliberately down the page.

 

The morning light slants through

The heavy glass. He can hear the

Slow clatter of horses’ hooves

On cobblestones as they haul apples

From the country to market. In the small shop,

Away from the wretched choir school, 

He can rearrange time and space.

 

Much later, after three hundred wars,

The banker sits on the ninth floor,

With 26 items on his to-do list, a

Whirlwind of electrons firing messages at him, 

And struggles with next year’s budget,

Which will pass through two managers

A department head, and two committees

Before being changed completely

And returned to him to start again with

Different assumptions. As an unexpected benefit

Of two centuries of capitalism, he can plug headphones

Into his computer and listen to Bach’s Concerto

Played by a Russian orchestra.

 

The Adagio begins; the banker pauses. It proceeds

To gently unwrap the items and the e-mails

From their hold on the hemispheres

Of his brain. His breathing slows;

The Adagio lasts for nine minutes,

During which he can almost hear

The stately procession of horses’ hooves

In Leipzig and the scratch of a quill pen

Reaching out in time, note by stunning note.