The first five times I read this poem, I never imagined that the title referred to actual music. I thought, Nah, this is just avant-garde poetry; there isn’t a Concerto No. 2 in G Minor. I wasn’t imagining a funky violin in the background and francine harris doing her Vivaldi, dropping a riff on a sonnet to explicate how the violin turns trap and some empty street in Venice, Calif., or Venice, Fla., or Venice, Ill., or Venice, La., gets funky. This is theme music for the end of the pandemic, and poetry to explain it all. Selected by Reginald Dwyane Betts
Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 8, RV 315 “L’estate”: I. Allegro mà non molto
By francine j. harris
[Antonio Vivaldi, I Solisti Aquilani, Daniele Orlando]
Underneath generators, if you tune it out, it becomes
its own vow of subaural buzz. Something is generating.
Something lit and moving low to the ground. A hush in festival,
night and how the bus rows the street over stoplights. Picking up
speed, it rounds nothing. No men out tonight. No crickets even
if winter is suffering a heat on all the snow melted and slick
ice quickly black has slipped off into greasy gutters and dried though
at midnight, the orchestra loses it. Breaks out of its trap shell. its lounge
doors. its shivering cymbals, and howls a lost dog into the steady drop
night where beneath the window the squash leaves are still fat and
yellowing a sign of dormant or disaster why night baptizes every
utterance, quickly black and restless children are always out now
of earshot, the red priest of Venice is bowing so lightly you have
to listen at full volume and when the men bellow suddenly into
half empty streets at night, it wakes everyone. everyone at once.
Illustration by R.O. Blechman
Reginald Dwayne Betts is a poet and lawyer. He created the Million Book Project, an initiative to curate microlibraries and install them in prisons across the country. His latest collection of poetry, “Felon,” explores the post-incarceration experience. In 2019, he won a National Magazine Award in Essays and Criticism for his article in The Times Magazine about his journey from teenage carjacker to aspiring lawyer. francine j. harris is the author of the poetry collection “Here is the Sweet Hand,” (2020) from Farrar, Straus & Giroux. She is currently an associate professor of English at the University of Houston.