I heard the coyotes again last night.
It was a brief trill out of the darkness, somewhere on the far edge of the cherry trees. I lay in my bed, listening to the silence that followed, halfway expecting to hear the sudden cadence of paws running through the crust of snow.
They always come from the West in the velvet hush of darkness, beckoning me from the deepest of sleep.
I wavered there on the cusp of slumber, with a vague sensation that the room was spinning. Blue moonlight webbed between the bare limbs of the tree outside the window, and captured me in it’s snare.
Suspended between awake and sleep, I was transported with the simple sway of branches. A final cry from the coyotes sent my thoughts winging across the continents, over the oceans, through the fog… to the cold flagstones beside the River Thames. The echo of their wild call held in the winter air like a breath expelled, and wove with a single note peeled from the heart of a violin.
I remembered that violin, singing into the London darkness.
I saw him there, beneath the yellow glow of an aged lantern; a thin heron of a man with a pointed wisp of a beard, and a violin tucked beneath his chin.
His eyes were closed, and soon he drew back the bow to release that single note from it’s place…letting the melody drop slowly around him like the arms of a drowzy lover. He spun in the grasp, oblivious to the audience that stood captivated in the shadows. He was a Whirling Dirvish, the cuffs of his long trousers dusting the tops of his polished shoes.
There was a faint trace of a smile beneath his silver whiskers, and a glint of moonlight that bounced off the clasps of his white suspenders. His shirt was not stiffly pressed, but hanging off him like the silks a gypsy might wear. Within the billowing fabric, his boney arms worked away…. one braced beneath the wooden muse he held, the other masterfully guiding the bow to the strings, giving the siren it’s voice.
How long had it been since he enthralled his fair mistress with such talent? How many years had passed since he stood in chambers warmed by firelight, and sipped red wine from a glass reflecting the flames? When was the last time he set the violin aside, and traded it for the satin of his beloved’s embrace?
And the violin wailed; So long… so very long…
But he danced for her now, on the flagstones, in the cold… his breath swirling around him as he panted the lust only a musician knows. The tones were pure, and sailed along the river like so many restless souls…. and perhaps he imagined her to be one, her ageless beauty wavering at the edge of sallow lamplight.
At last, his shoulders hunched, his grey cheek pressed to the curve of wood as the melody found it’s final breathy stanzas…. and the song melted away into the brisk London air. He tucked the violin and bow beneath his arm like a heron folding it’s wings in against the wind.
Without opening his eyes, he walked backwards into the shadows and was gone.
The wind rushed up from the Thames, and rocked the branches of the trees growing up out of the walkway.
The moon was trapped in the limbs….
…I know because I saw it there, when my eyes fluttered opened at the sound of a coyote’s cry.