At Night When the Music Comes

by Susan Ludvigson

I listen as if I’m waiting for clues

to my life, now it’s a choral piece,

piano accompaniment—

I can’t make out the words but tenors

and sopranos urge me somewhere

forward as if toward doors that might

open, increasing the volume

so I don’t have to strain to hear,

but then it’s a cappella until the whole

thing switches to orchestra,

horns taking the lead, though

if I were choosing it would be strings,

and despite not experiencing spasms

that could suggest tumor or injury, I suspect

Nietzsche is right: music

is in the muscles, which doesn’t explain

why it happens on the way to sleep

but not sleeping, the body letting go until

I stop to check the clock

or decide to listen harder,

sometimes rewarded by a phrase

that seems familiar, although I’m never

sure, especially when it’s interrupted by the dogs

stirring in their crates or a car

going by, even when it picks up where it left off,

keeping its own time, simply

letting me eavesdrop, and while some say

it’s fillings in teeth picking up radio signals,

I’d rather think of the brain

tuning to frequencies closer to invention

than explicable chance—but then, the two

are intimates, aren’t they, and shouldn’t I

just let them dance?

SUSAN LUDVIGSON has published nine collections of poems with LSU Press and is the recipient of Guggenheim, Rockefeller, Fulbright, and NEA Fellowships.