I tore this poem out of the NEW YORKER in March. Upon first read, I was all for the "triangles." So sensitive! And then, upon second read... ooops! In actuality, I was completely the "tomtom kid," yes, RUNNING for the tomtoms or equivalent to avoid being stuck with the wimpy, ineffective triangle.
In the poem, Gilbert bemoans having been affected by this earlier childhood experience, growing used to the silence of triangles.
I, on the other hand, think the tragedy lies more in the kid once used to the tomtoms and now forced to live with the triangle-silence.
WAITING AND FINDING
by Jack Gilbert
While he was in kindergarten, everybody wanted to play
the tomtoms when it came time for that. You had to
run in order to get there first, and he would not.
So he always had a triangle. He does not remember
how they played the tomtoms, but he sees clearly
their Chinese look. Red with dragons front and back
and gold studs around that held the drumhead tight.
If you had a triangle, you didn’t really make music.
You mostly waited while the tambourines and tomtoms
went on a long time. Until there was a signal for all
triangle people to hit them the right way. Usually once.
Then it was tomtoms and waiting some more. But what
he remembers is the sound of the triangle. A perfect,
shimmering sound that has lasted all his long life.
Fading out and coming again after a while. Getting lost
and the waiting for it to come again. Waiting meaning
without things. Meaning love sometimes dying out,
sometimes being taken away. Meaning that often he lives
silent in the middle of the world’s music. Waiting
for the best to come again. Beginning to hear the silence
as he waits. Beginning to like the silence maybe too much.