drawing of the Acropolis
from Brick 87

I’d Ask Him for It

SHARON OLDS

Rarely, my ex would sing to me,
I don’t know what scale he used, maybe Arab,
seventeen steps to the octave, or Chinese,
five. It was microtonal a-
harmonic, its staff was of the bass clef,
but I don’t know how far below baritone
it went, C below middle C or
lower, down into those mineral regions—I would
ask it of him directly, I would be
lying along him, and would say to him,
softly, confiding, “Do me some low notes,” and he’d
open his wide, thin-lipped, tone-deaf
Cupid’s-bow mouth, and seek down
for a breath near the early deposited shales,
he would make the male soundings, and if I had been
finishing I would again, deep
level bubble of a whole note slowly
bursting. I think he loved being loved,
I think those were the cadences,
plagal, of a good, lived life.
He liked it a long time, tonic,
dominant, subdominant, and now
I want to relearn the intervals, to
journey with a man among the thirds and fifths,
augmented, diminished, with a light touch,
sforzando, rallentando, agitato, the usual
adores and dotes—and of course what I really
want is some low notes.