When Beethoven plays poker, hearers calling his bluff,
He moves without moving; the thicker the mask,
The greater the music, blinding in its task
Of capturing vision where sound is enough.
When Verdi lays out his hand, stillness takes all;
The voice alone luxuriates to obscure a
Thousand writhings in one tessitura,
As gorgeous, stifled, as a glittering pall.
When Puccini plays cards, silences win out;
A breath is a debt, each listener in arrears;
Disaster is a tremolo; the pauses shout;
All that’s left is our ears.