An elderly violinist had just suffered a stroke. His face drooped, his right hand was feeble. His wife brought a tape player to the hospital room. There he sat, silent, his body motionless, his face animated, listening to his own recordings of ten and twenty years previous: the violin concertos of Beethoven and Bruch, the solo partitas of Bach, for hours and days on end.
“How do you feel?”—knowing, both, that he would never play again.
“I feel fine. I’ve made enough music already.”
Charles Bardes is a physician who practices and teaches medicine in New York. His book-length prose poem, Diary of Our Fatal Illness (University of Chicago Press, Phoenix Poets, 2017), narrates the illness and death of an aged man. Other poems, essays, and ruminations have appeared in AGNI, Raritan, Ploughshares, The New England Journal of Medicine, and elsewhere. Pale Faces: The Masks of Anemia (Bellevue Literary Press, 2008) is an extended lyric essay that probes the mythological and cultural aspects of a common disease construct. In 2018 he received the Blackwell Prize in Writing, which “honors a writer who exhibits exceptional talent on the printed page, as well as meaningful social commitments on the public stage.” More info at charlesbardes.com. (updated 3/2020)
Charles Bardes and Tom Sleigh coauthored “A Viral Exchange, under Lockdown” for the AGNI blog.