When I came back from Europe late last year
a new tune kept running through my head.
It still recurs at odd times of the day,
haunting like a perfume or a face.
Its clean string of notes obsesses me.

I cannot write it down; I have no key.
I can’t translate it to another code.
I cannot even hum it to myself.
It has to sing itself inside of me.

I heard it first in Prague on Charles Bridge-
early summer evening, cloudless sky-
where exiles from a grey dictatorship
played their haunting high Andean
flutes among the rows of buskers waiting there.

Expatriates, tourists, dissidents, passers by-
an ancient tune of sorrow pierced with joy-
those refugees, those exiles far from home
playing their haunting high Andean flutes;
this place of wandering scholars, vagabonds.

I heard them two months later playing near
the market place at Cambridge in the rain:
their piercing flutes’ insinuating song-
its cry of joy, its almost desolation-
hungry for home and all its idioms.

from The Other Side Of Things (River Road Press, 2008), Vivian Smith 2008, used by permission of the author and River Road Press

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