John Skoyles




Conductor Andrew Heath never read
our term papers. We typed a first
and last page, filling the middle
with Our Fathers, Hail Marys,
the Gettysburg Address.
He lost his temper only once,
when a student who dominated
discussions clapped as a visiting cellist
finished playing a Brahms sonata.
That sweet sound, about to fade, died
in the know-it-all’s premature applause.
Heath made strangling motions
at the offender’s throat, saying,
“The last note is not the end—
the last note is the silence that follows.”


JOHN SKOYLES is the author of four books of poems, A Little Faith; Permanent Change; Definition of the Soul and The Situation. He has also published a book of personal essays, Generous Strangers, and a memoir, Secret Frequencies: A New York Education. He teaches at Emerson College and serves as the poetry editor of Ploughshares. Two books of prose, A Moveable Famine and The Nut File, will be published in 2014.


Read more work by John Skoyles:

Essay in The Atlantic
Poem in Slate
Poem in Plume
Author’s Website