Summer 2002 • Vol. XXIV No. 3/4 FictionJuly 1, 2002 |

Unfinished Symphony

We were a bad orchestra. Even our repertoire spoke of diminished expectations: Beethoven's First, Excerpts from Bizet's Carmen, Schubert's Unfinished. In the hands of a good orchestra I knew these works shimmered and dazzled, made audiences sigh and weep. But in our hands—the Greater Middlesex County Community Orchestra's—I sensed any sighing or weeping would be for self-pity's sake. The best we could do was to play the pieces. Indeed Moses Tobin, our conductor, a volunteer, had chosen the works less for their aesthetic offerings, grand as they were, than for their relative technical ease. One month before our first concert, scheduled the second Saturday of May, and it appeared plain: Moses hated us. He could count on us to begin and finish, but no matter how vigorously he wielded his baton, no matter how forthcoming his cues—as fluid and directive as a cop ushering rush-hour traffic—everything in between still came down more or less to chance. And so Moses despised us i

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Elizabeth Poliner is the author of the forthcoming novel, As Close to Us as Breathing (Lee Boudreaux Books/Little, Brown), to be published March 2016, and the forthcoming poetry collection, What You Know in Your Hands (David Robert Books), to be published September 2015. She is also the author of a novel in stories, Mutual Life & Casualty and a poetry chapbook, Sudden Fog. In addition to the Kenyon Review, her short fiction has appeared in the Colorado Review, the Southampton Review, and the Laurel Review, among other journals. She teaches in the MFA program at Hollins University.

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