Every Tuesday night at ten
the accordion doors in the back
of the Chinese restaurant clack shut.
The barbershop aficionados huddle around
the banquet table, paunchy retirees
in button downs and polo shirts,
eyes wobbling through their thick lenses.
They shovel dumplings into their soft mouths,
hurriedly slurping their egg drop soup,
until their leader gives the signal
and begins to walk them through each part
-the lead, the baritone, the plodding bass,
the feathery tenor- guiding and sculpting each word
with his hands as well as his lips.
Four at a time, they push back their chairs
and crowd together at the foot of the table.
Eyes squeezed shut behind their bifocals,
they strain their necks and croon,
singing only the tags- the last four bars
which encapsulate the entire composition,
the climax as four winding paths
snap into perfect a capella alignment
and cause a harmonic shudder to pass through
the flaming silk phoenixes, the caged dragons
on the walls of the restaurant.
They spend hours entwining those strands
into a thick melody, voices vibrating
with an otherworldly frequency
not unlike the way you vibrate as you lie there,
quivering, lashed to the motel headboard,
forgetting the rope burning your wrists
as you lose yourself in song.