Forty old people, arranged around rectangular tables
in a rectangular room with black and white squares
on the floor.
Today's speaker has a microphone next to which he
stands so close that every “p” makes an unwanted
punctuation of amplified air.
He talks so fast that “program music” sounds like prora
music, something new and perhaps extraterrestial that
we are just now finding out about
in this angular room, early in the 21st century.
But no, we are learning about music in the mid-
nineteenth century, long before even the oldest old
person in this room was born,
long before our parents or even grandparents were born.
The speaker puffs into the microphone about piccolos and
preludes, and the old people are polite, their papery
We listen to the river, beginning very quietly as two
streams, high in the mountains of Austria.
Some cannot hear the beginning at all, but they do better
when the two small streams become one big sound,
and white heads bob up and down,up and down.
The river leads us past a wedding party with dancers,
and into a night scene of dark currents and a moon and
perhaps some magic.
warns the speaker, his glasses glinting.
And sooner than we expected, but
we did know, he intones “The Rapids” and no one is
Forty old people, still attentive, still inscrutable, past the
rapids now, sit in the rectangular room
and listen to the river disappear from sight.