the wax paper

Einstein’s Violin, 2

Sally Ashton

He wanders from the study to a battered case on the piano where his 

violin waits, lifts it out. Ah, Lina, the familiar curve of her polished 

wooden body fitting against his shoulder. How inattentive he’s been. 

He pages through sheets of music, finds Mozart. Already the beloved 

melody plays in his head, a symphony rising from the score even 

before he plays a note, just the way a mathematical equation scrawled 

on paper precisely expresses a thought without words, everything in 

the cosmos so elegantly structured. He draws the bow across the A 

string, sliding his finger down to middle C, vibrato. It’s just a matter 

of getting the figures right. Like music.

The note fades, not how light travels, rippling from a billion light 

years across space-time, a fabric curved by each star and planet. Even 

Newton didn’t imagine this invisible geometry, how it shapes gravity. 

The sonata unspools from the violin, swells and dances like 

gravitational waves. He knows they exist. The numbers say they 


The notation quickens. His clumsy fingers fumble. So aggravating to 

get old, but it can’t be helped. He rests the violin back in its case, 

plucks a single string. One pure tone hums, like an idea. Like the universe finding its voice. 

Sally Ashton is Editor-in-Chief of DMQ Review. She’s the author of three collections and is assistant editor of They Said: A Multi-Genre Anthology of Contemporary Collaborative Writing, just released. A fourth collection in which this piece appears, The Behaviour of Clocks on a Rotating Body of Reference, is forthcoming (in) 2019.