there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle
—Marianne Moore, “Poetry”

Well, all that fiddle
perhaps. But not this
sublime faddle, far
      more important

than whatever “this
fiddle” might have been
(although granted not
      the resonant

machine of spruce and
maple that we need
      to hear certain
kinds of truth with).

Fiddle can sound as
      if it had a
silly middle and
were thereby of use

for crumpling knowledge,
work delighted in,
devout attention,
      into a ball

      and tossing it
away in some slight
annoyance (but not
to every one’s) and

(worse!) averting one’s
gaze from what follows
it so doggedly:
fiddle’s dark shadow,

faddle—not a past
tense of the verb we
have been fiddling with
      but rather a

residue of all
that business of strings—
strings bowed and tickled
      and pinched and plucked—

      all that fiddling
to which Nero’s Rome
burned, they said, and to
which the high walls of

Amphion’s Troy rose
as its stones took wing,
settling down into
      where they belonged—

the faddle of life’s
rhythms of decay
and reconstruction,
      once the fiddle’s

flying and sighing
intonations have
shaped all that faddle
in its final form.

Well, then the death of
all that importance
      incident to
the fiddler’s own death

—the body, the mind
with their pains and woes
their cares and delights
      their assessments

of what matters most
all fled—the faddle
      will settle down
in its newly found

place in existence,
played and playing, sung
and singing, ever
      shaping anew

the sounds of what is
seen, the lights and shades
of what is heard, and
      thereby giving

some previously
      new meaning to
importance itself.

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 23 Number 9, on page 34
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