This is the highway that leads, no matter how dark it is and no matter how few taillights there are in front of you and no matter which exit you take, to five million Beethovens.

They’re out there, not all doing exceptional things.

One is probably making coffee badly… Another is most likely doing sexual intercourse badly… And yes, of course, there is another Beethoven who is doing his taxes badly.

At night, when everyone else goes to sleep, they go to their composition books and pick up their quill pens and begin composing sonatas and symphonies you can feel in your blood…

One of the Beethovens says he is composing the color blue, for that is what he heard in the dream with the woman with the tongue like a red scarf…

But all of the Beethovens are deaf. They can only hear in dreams. So they can’t hear the other Beethovens doing what they are doing. They think they are the only Beethovens in existence, if they think about being a Beethoven at all. It’s strange and sad. If you watch them just before your eyes soften into sleep, they look like Christmas lights on a house where the family dog has just died.

If you come across a Beethoven that can hear, that means you are dreaming…


Shane Kowalski is a lecturer at Cornell University. His work appears or is forthcoming in Electric Literature, Puerto del Sol, The Offing, Hobart, Wildness, and elsewhere.