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Antal Szalai's Gypsy Band in an Australian County Town

The country concert hall is full
of old Hungarians who’ve come
from miles away to hear the thrill
of tarogato, cimbalom,
but most of all—the violin.
And what a violin! They say
that after he had heard him play
Yehudi Menuhin embraced him,
so deeply had Szalai impressed him.
When they start there’s such a shock:
as though the world had run amok
sound rips around the walls and hits
the ceiling, strikes the metal parts
of doors and watches, and the hearts
of sleepers who have come to life,
and young again, accept the knife
of youth and pain; the lightning bursts
in every space and now it’s Liszt’s
transfiguration, Gypsy grief
and desperation, time the thief,
it weeps then changes with a bang,
to pure delight as high notes hang
above the hall so high they hurt
with panpipes conjuring a bird;
they’re old, this audience, and know
that this is love, the silent bow
that holds suspended all they are
then lets them down through sunlit air;
the gypsy and the bird are free
like them, they leave him thankfully
in songs and dances, out the door
to Queensland which they never saw
the way they see it now, with strings
to all the loved remembered things.


by Janet Kenny



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