The Drum Circle
by Steve Silberman
Out of the day come the drummers,
and maracas and tars, with bongos and little hand-drums painted with sacred
symbols and incised with the faces of demons, with drums of skin and wood and
river clay and metal, the drums of the four elements. With rainsticks and
shekeres, drums that hiss and drums that rumble like two stones rolling against
each other on the floor of the ocean, with clay ghatams as round as their
bellies and surdos like flame under the feet, with all kinds of drums in their
hands streaked and fretted with the day's labor, hands that know how to make
matter speak secrets of spirit.
Master drummers with eager apprentices, drummers who leave
their men at home to make love to the moon with their drum, drummers who lie to
people but never to their drum. Big fat drummers with bellies overspilling their
too-tight pants who love nothing more than to eat, make love, and drum, drummers
lean as snakes with muscles articulate as the taut skin of a drum, rude drummers
with beery kisses, inept drummers fumbling the beat, shy drummers who roar like
thunder when they drum, tomboys who bury a tooth under the Milky Way wishing for
their first drum, drummers who are glad they are not soldiers, fire-eyed
drummers with stretch marks on their breasts and tough nipples, drummers who
heard their true name one night from a drum.
Indigent drummers slacking on the rent but never
on the rhythm, drummers with neighbors pounding on the wall, drummers who sleep
in their truck with their drums, drummers who stroke the skin of a drumhead
patient as a lover who knows what Duke meant when he said "A drum is a woman,"
drummers drumming as the first warhead opens its flower of heavy elements,
drummers full of acid playing drums of water, mathematical drummers building
golden triangles in the ear, drummers who could have been poets inventing a new
language of the heart on a secondhand drum, drummers who think of the most
beautiful breasts they never touched when they drum, drummers with pieces of
metal in their flesh binding them to this world, drummers who dreamed they could
fly when they were young, who learned to fly.
Drummers who play what they hear inside,
drummers who play
what's never been heard, drummers who keep the secret of the silent beat.
Drummers who make earthquakes when they drum, rhythm masters of the cutting
rhyme and the tricky sample, compassionate drummers drumming the drum of swift
death, old drummers who set searing coals of envy in the chests of young
drummers, drummers born in the wrong century, exiles of time. Medicine drummers
with caxixi and berimbau stinging trances into the air, heavy metal drummers to
whom visions of Norse thundergods come in garages stinking of dinosaur perfume,
kind rainbow drummers with bellies full of lust for perfect young bodies,
drummers who weep thinking of a cow in the slaughterhouse, assassin drummer
aiming his arrow well, blind drummer sounding the colors of the setting sun,
lonely drummers, drummers drumming first blood between their legs, drummers who
smile when they play knowing they were born to drum, drummers who say dancing
with the hands, drummers who should have stuck with the violin lessons,
drummers who learn they are drummers ringing the temple bell, drummers
unraveling the net of the law, drummers making one from one and
one, drummers who keep drumming when the drumhead cuts the fingers of
their hands, drummers who feel nothing but pain, drummers drumming to steal
knowledge of the dead, drummers waiting absolutely still for the animal whose
skin will be the skin of a drum.
©2002 by Steve Silberman
Steve Silberman is a contributing editor at Wired
magazine. His articles have appeared in Wired, The
New Yorker, Time, and many other national
publications, and he is the co-author of Skeleton
Key: A Dictionary for Deadheads. The Drum Circle,
written in 1989, is published here for the first time.
See more of his work at his Web site.