Our City’s Treasure Assays Our Own Worth

FullSizeRender-15In the two years I have called Over-the-Rhine home, I have also christened Music Hall my touchstone. As I wrote this piece, I sought out other synonyms for touchstone and learned the word’s first definition: a lack siliceous stone related to flint and formerly used to test the purity of gold and silver.

And now I know why.

Recently, the Society for the Preservation of Music Hall, and volunteers Clint and Carol in particular, opened the doors of the grand lady to let me have a look around before Music Hall closed down for renovations. The rest of the public had been welcome too, but on that day, no one else had yet to step inside.

I informed Clint that I knew the history of the building and could quote his quotes in no time, so he offered to just walk with me and answer any questions that I might have.  I didn’t want the company, wanting to soak up all of Her treble and base on my own, but I relented and Clint tagged along. We did after all, share a comon bond.

When I stepped behind the scenes, I was surprised to actually see the puckered carpet, the peeling paint, cracked FullSizeRender-18drywall, in essence Her crippled bones. The many times I had approached from the front of the house, so much space had covered by humans. When I stepped on stage, in the cavernous silence, I heard the many voices Music Hall had spawned and the many more She could birth.

I often call Music Hall She.  She has been like the Mother watching over the performers and guests, and all of those patrons of Washington Park. She has also been witness to rocketing stars and victims of pointless crimes, to people experiencing homelessness and those uniting through marriage.

She possesses a unique connection to every citizen of Cincinnati.

As Music Hall prepares to shut down, I too, must prepare for this temporary loss by reminding myself one must build with the imagination and integrity of the ancestors.  And one must hold strong to her deepest values like those who have been long-time residents of this odd-shape polygonal neighborhood.  And that one need only touch but a single person in this city of 300,000, as Music Hall has touched me, to find purity in the endeavor.



In darkness She pauses
takes in the weight
of what She has carried
for hundreds of years –

FullSizeRender-19how She has laid down
stiff arms of brick
for others to soar,
how holes in her mortar
have absorbed croons and strains
of Sinatra and Bach
how She has risen each dawn to sing
with a timbre only she can reach.

Throughout her decades
She has been Queen
existing only
in the upper range of good
amidst darkened clouds
of falling timber
and tumbling crowds.

Now I want to caress her face
as drills invade her space
and disrupt her resonance.
Men, and its mostly men
come to work,
do they know the burden of
hammers on her heart
the piercing
of nails upon her soul.

They traipse through dust and dirt
where centuries of crumbs
mingle with their daily bread.
When they remove their Wolverines
when they scrape off heels,
do they know those specks
were once the tears She rained
and arias of Odyseus.

Do they know She dwells
in each and all atoms
of our metropolis air
despite those who protest
She never touches them at all.

I hear the drills, feel her shrills
as they carve into her
slice through her mid and mortar
which has held a city together.
Her life will be buried
behind iron and steel
as if it were that simple
to imitate the Germans’ skill.

And behind the fence
imprisoned will be
the high notes and baritones,
the sweeper and the Turners
the sangerbunds and bellringer
the ice man and washerwoman
the opera singer and magic man
the one who costumes with plumes
and one who presses collars to the stars

one whose elbow creaks when windows crack
open for sales, and cuts a finger
along the ticket’s jagged edge.

and the one to whom
on winter nights
her sigh of lullabies skip
across the frosted rooftops
to warm a cold soul.

She is near hollow now,
while the window made of rose
flutters open then close
open, then mum.

The heart of her ghost
begins to mourn.

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