David Lehman

Elijah's Violin


"When we opened the door and kept it open

No one was there

or mybe someone was but we couldn't see him or hear him

and my father made the blessing

and it was as quiet as the moment

a man learns he is dying of a disease he can't pronounce

or the moment after a boy

watching the World Series swings a bat

and breaks the chandelier

in the living room.

no, that's not the way it was though

though yes it was very quiet. We couldn't hear

anything but we looked at the tall cup

reserved for Elijah on the Seder table

filled to the brim and I swear I saw

it move as if a wind very light had blown

on the wine-dark sea, which diminished

imperceptibly and that is when I heard it,

the violin in the alley, a lone violinist

playing a Russian lullaby

sadly and then my father niodded his head

and we closed the door and

no one else had heard the violin.

You see, I know that Elijah was there,

every year, but we who are in on the secret

are obliged to observe the rule

that commands us to pretend that Elijah

didn't come. It's part of the mystery. 

Not a word of this to anyone else, you understand?"


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