Sunday, June 29, 2014

Poems about Retreat: Playlist for June 27, 2014


The Vacation


By  Wendell Berry  


Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.

He went flying down the river in his boat

with his video camera to his eye, making

a moving picture of the moving river

upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly

toward the end of his vacation. He showed

his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,

preserving it forever: the river, the trees,

the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat

behind which he stood with his camera

preserving his vacation even as he was having it

so that after he had had it he would still

have it. It would be there. With a flick

of a switch, there it would be. But he

would not be in it. He would never be in it.


REFLECTIVE MUSIC: My Robin is to the Greenwood Gone by Percy Grainger




About My Very Tortured Friend, Peter


By  Charles Bukowski  


he lives in a house with a swimming pool

and says the job is

killing him.

he is 27. I am 44. I can’t seem to

get rid of

him. his novels keep coming

back. “what do you expect me to do?” he screams

“go to New York and pump the hands of the

publishers?”

“no,” I tell him, “but quit your job, go into a

small room and do the

thing.”

“but I need ASSURANCE, I need something to

go by, some word, some sign!”

“some men did not think that way:

Van Gogh, Wagner—”

“oh hell, Van Gogh had a brother who gave him

paints whenever he

needed them!”


“look,” he said, “I’m over at this broad’s house today and

this guy walks in. a salesman. you know

how they talk. drove up in this new

car. talked about his vacation. said he went to

Frisco—saw Fidelio up there but forgot who

wrote it. now this guy is 54 years

old. so I told him: ‘Fidelio is Beethoven’s only

opera.’ and then I told

him: ‘you’re a jerk!’ ‘whatcha mean?’ he

asked. ‘I mean, you’re a jerk, you’re 54 years old and

you don’t know anything!’”


“what happened

then?”

“I walked out.”

“you mean you left him there with

her?”

“yes.”


“I can’t quit my job,” he said. “I always have trouble getting a

job. I walk in, they look at me, listen to me talk and

they think right away, ah ha! he’s too intelligent for

this job, he won’t stay

so there’s really no sense in hiring

him.

now, YOU walk into a place and you don’t have any trouble:

you look like an old wino, you look like a guy who needs a

job and they look at you and they think:

ah ha!: now here’s a guy who really needs work! if we hire

him he’ll stay a long time and work

HARD!”


“do any of those people,” he asks “know you are a

writer, that you write poetry?”

“no.”

“you never talk about

it. not even to

me! if I hadn’t seen you in that magazine I’d

have never known.”

“that’s right.”

“still, I’d like to tell these people that you are a

writer.”

“I’d still like to

tell them.”

“why?”

“well, they talk about you. they think you are just a

horseplayer and a drunk.”

“I am both of those.”

“well, they talk about you. you have odd ways. you travel alone.

I’m the only friend you

have.”

“yes.”

“they talk you down. I’d like to defend you. I’d like to tell

them you write

poetry.”

“leave it alone. I work here like they

do. we’re all the same.”

“well, I’d like to do it for myself then. I want them to know why

I travel with

you. I speak 7 languages, I know my music—”

“forget it.”

“all right, I’ll respect your

wishes. but there’s something else—”

“what?”

“I’ve been thinking about getting a

piano. but then I’ve been thinking about getting a

violin too but I can’t make up my

mind!”

“buy a piano.”

“you think

so?”

“yes.”


he walks away

thinking about

it.


I was thinking about it

too: I figure he can always come over with his

violin and more

sad music.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC:Piano Blues by Aaron Copland




Family Vacation

By  Judith Slater  


Four weeks in, quarreling and far

from home, we came to the loneliest place.

A western railroad town. Remember?

I left you at the campsite with greasy pans

and told our children not to follow me.

The dying light had made me desperate.

I broke into a hobbled run, across tracks,

past warehouses with sun-blanked windows

to where a playground shone in a wooded clearing.

Then I was swinging, out over treetops.

I saw myself never going back, yet

whatever breathed in the mute woods

was not another life. The sun sank.

I let the swing die, my toes scuffed earth,

and I was rocked into remembrance

of the girl who had dreamed the life I had.

Through night, dark at the root, I returned to it.


REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Piano Trio in G minor (Andante) by Clara Schumann





When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer

By  Walt Whitman   


When I heard the learn’d astronomer,

When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,

When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,

When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,

How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,

Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,

In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,

Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Symphony No. 2 by Alan Hovhaness (1st movement)




The Singing Place

By  Lily A. Long 


Cold may lie the day,

         And bare of grace;

At night I slip away

         To the Singing Place.


A border of mist and doubt

         Before the gate,

And the Dancing Stars grow still

         As hushed I wait.

Then faint and far away

         I catch the beat

In broken rhythm and rhyme

         Of joyous feet,—

Lifting waves of sound

         That will rise and swell

(If the prying eyes of thought

         Break not the spell),

Rise and swell and retreat

         And fall and flee,

As over the edge of sleep

         They beckon me.

And I wait as the seaweed waits

         For the lifting tide;


To ask would be to awake,—

         To be denied.

I cloud my eyes in the mist

         That veils the hem,—

And then with a rush I am past,-—

         I am Theirs, and of Them!

And the pulsing chant swells up

         To touch the sky,

And the song is joy, is life,

         And the song am I!

The thunderous music peals

         Around, o'erhead-

The dead would awake to hear

         If there were dead;

But the life of the throbbing Sun

         Is in the song,

And we weave the world anew,

         And the Singing Throng

Fill every corner of space—-


Over the edge of sleep

         I bring but a trace

Of the chants that pulse and sweep

         In the Singing Place.


REFLECTIVE MUSIC:Alleluia by Randall Thompson









Source: Poetry (November 1912).

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Poems about Jazz: Playlist for June 20, 2014

El Segundo Blues
by Diane Wakoski
                                                            for Penny Perry

          Bill Evans’ jazz piano, like those
butterflies, a blue wafting
mass, made up of small fingering
delicacies, flutters into
my old ears, returns me to smears of beach drift
and sea foam.  I hold them close, like scraps of lace,
or broken shells.

Child Diane.  I caught small-winged, tiny, grey-black-white-
and orange patterned butterflies
that lit on my childhood lantana hedge but,
though I now realize we lived close to the El Segundo Blue’s
ecosystem, I suspect
my butterflies were a different
California species,
since I never saw any interior blue wings,
and the male El Segundos
have them. 

Lonely Diane.  Had I seen
the Blues would I have felt entitled
to beauty, not
needing inadvertently
to kill it? 

What if I had followed
the lane past the lantana hedge all the way down beyond
The King’s Highway, El
Camino Real, would I have discovered
how bound I was? Bound by my mother’s man-less life?
Wondering always about acceptance.
If I had followed my butterflies down the lane,
down from our house,
down beyond The Kings Highway, as 101
was first named, would it have led me
to an underworld, all of men?  Or boys?  Perhaps
Peter Pan and other Lost Boys?
Some male enclave, a balance against the all-female
world of my mother, my sister, and me?  Would there have been
the arm of a bayou winding out to open water
to embrace a ship in its curve, an old clipper with masts and rigging?
Pirates, near the land where Disneyland would later be built?

It has always been so hard for me to like women.  The world of women
seemed like prison to me, grey as the wing-interiors of the
female El Segundo Blue.  And I might as well
say right now that I never liked Tinker Bell. 
She was a mean girl and, in real life, she would have been
a cheer leader.  If I had wandered in, she would
have buzzed me, turning me away.  I might
have fought her but just then
--I think—
(wishfully)
a cloud of migrating El Segundo Blues
might have appeared, whirling back up the lane from which I had come,
and as always,
I would have followed them, never finding the lost boys,
would have followed the indigo wings,
dizzy with frittering blue, their male beauty calling me louder
than any lost boy,
as they swirled up Russell Lane,
back to my familiar
neighborhood, heading to my old lantana hedge
with its little cushions of variegated lavender and white florets.

There, the swarm would have settled – an apron, a patch,
a flag of sapphire
reminding me of magic,
how it always harbors the unknown.  The
music of Bill Evans, leading me also,
with his swirl of cascading phrases, his male authority of
blue encounter, his hand replacing mine
on the keyboard.  Grazing in buckwheat, I long
to feel surrounded by recognition’s fizz,
a man’s touch that
always surprises me -- a scrap
of blue wing on the white gravel driveway.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: You Must Believe in Spring (Michel Legrand) performed by Bill Evans






Jazz in Paris

by Jennifer Grotz
(unavailable)


REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Ne Me Quitte Pas, performed by Nina Simone



Nightclub

by Billy Collins

You are so beautiful and I am a fool
to be in love with you
is a theme that keeps coming up
in songs and poems.
There seems to be no room for variation.
I have never heard anyone sing
I am so beautiful
and you are a fool to be in love with me,
even though this notion has surely
crossed the minds of women and men alike.
You are so beautiful, too bad you are a fool
is another one you don't hear.
Or, you are a fool to consider me beautiful.
That one you will never hear, guaranteed.

For no particular reason this afternoon
I am listening to Johnny Hartman
whose dark voice can curl around
the concepts on love, beauty, and foolishness
like no one else's can.
It feels like smoke curling up from a cigarette
someone left burning on a baby grand piano
around three o'clock in the morning;
smoke that billows up into the bright lights
while out there in the darkness
some of the beautiful fools have gathered
around little tables to listen,
some with their eyes closed,
others leaning forward into the music
as if it were holding them up,
or twirling the loose ice in a glass,
slipping by degrees into a rhythmic dream.

Yes, there is all this foolish beauty,
borne beyond midnight,
that has no desire to go home,
especially now when everyone in the room
is watching the large man with the tenor sax
that hangs from his neck like a golden fish.
He moves forward to the edge of the stage
and hands the instrument down to me
and nods that I should play.
So I put the mouthpiece to my lips
and blow into it with all my living breath.
We are all so foolish,
my long bebop solo begins by saying,
so damn foolish
we have become beautiful without even knowing it.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: I See Your Face Before Me, performed by Johnny Hartman      

                    


Almost Blue
by Mark Doty

Chet Baker, 1929-1988

If Hart Crane played trumpet
he’d sound like you, your horn’s dark city
miraculous and broken over and over,
scale-shimmered, every harbor-flung hour
and salt-span of cabled longing,
every waterfront, the night-lovers’ rendezvous.
This is the entrance
to the city of you, sleep’s hellgate,
and two weeks before the casual relinquishment
of your hold — light needling
on the canal’s gleaming haze
and the buds blaring like horns –
two weeks before the end, Chet,
and you’re playing like anything,
singing stay little valentine
stay

and taking so long there are worlds sinking
between the notes, this exhalation
no longer a voice but a rush of air,
brutal, from the tunnels under the river,
the barges’ late whistles you only hear
when the traffic’s stilled
by snow, a city hushed and
distilled into one rush of breath,
yours, into the microphone
and the ear of that girl
in the leopard-print scarf,
one long kiss begun on the highway
and carried on dangerously,
the Thunderbird veering
on the coast road: glamor
of a perfectly splayed fender,
dazzling lipstick, a little pearl of junk,
some stretch of road breathless
and traveled into … Whoever she is
she’s the other coast of you,
and just beyond the bridge into the city’s
long amalgam of ardor and indifference
is lit like a votive
then blown out. Too many rooms unrented
in this residential hotel,
and you don’t want to know
why they’re making that noise in the hall;
you’re going to wake up in any one of the
how many ten thousand
locations of trouble and longing
going out of business forever everything must go
wake up and start wanting.
It’s so much better when you don’t want:
nothing falls then, nothing lost
but sleep and who wanted that
in the pearl this suspended world is,
in the warm suspension and glaze
of this song everything stays up
almost forever in the long
glide sung into the vein,
one note held almost impossibly
almost blue and the lyric takes so long
to open, a little blood
blooming: there’s no love song finer
but how strange the change
from major to minor
every time
we say goodbye

and you leaning into that warm
haze from the window, Amsterdam,
late afternoon glimmer
a blur of buds

breathing in the lindens
and you let go and why not

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: My Funny Valentine performed by Chet Baker



Blue in Green
by Grace Schulman  
(unavailable)

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Blue in Green, performed by Miles Davis




Saturday, June 14, 2014

Poems about Waiting: Playlist for June 13, 2014


I Am Waiting

By  Lawrence Ferlinghetti  


I am waiting for my case to come up  

and I am waiting

for a rebirth of wonder

and I am waiting for someone

to really discover America

and wail

and I am waiting  

for the discovery

of a new symbolic western frontier  

and I am waiting  

for the American Eagle

to really spread its wings

and straighten up and fly right

and I am waiting

for the Age of Anxiety

to drop dead

and I am waiting

for the war to be fought

which will make the world safe

for anarchy

and I am waiting

for the final withering away

of all governments

and I am perpetually awaiting

a rebirth of wonder


I am waiting for the Second Coming  

and I am waiting

for a religious revival

to sweep thru the state of Arizona  

and I am waiting

for the Grapes of Wrath to be stored  

and I am waiting

for them to prove

that God is really American

and I am waiting

to see God on television

piped onto church altars

if only they can find  

the right channel  

to tune in on

and I am waiting

for the Last Supper to be served again

with a strange new appetizer

and I am perpetually awaiting

a rebirth of wonder


I am waiting for my number to be called

and I am waiting

for the Salvation Army to take over

and I am waiting

for the meek to be blessed

and inherit the earth  

without taxes

and I am waiting

for forests and animals

to reclaim the earth as theirs

and I am waiting

for a way to be devised

to destroy all nationalisms

without killing anybody

and I am waiting

for linnets and planets to fall like rain

and I am waiting for lovers and weepers

to lie down together again

in a new rebirth of wonder


I am waiting for the Great Divide to be crossed  

and I am anxiously waiting

for the secret of eternal life to be discovered  

by an obscure general practitioner

and I am waiting

for the storms of life

to be over

and I am waiting

to set sail for happiness

and I am waiting

for a reconstructed Mayflower

to reach America

with its picture story and tv rights

sold in advance to the natives

and I am waiting

for the lost music to sound again

in the Lost Continent

in a new rebirth of wonder


I am waiting for the day

that maketh all things clear

and I am awaiting retribution

for what America did  

to Tom Sawyer  

and I am waiting

for Alice in Wonderland

to retransmit to me

her total dream of innocence

and I am waiting

for Childe Roland to come

to the final darkest tower

and I am waiting  

for Aphrodite

to grow live arms

at a final disarmament conference

in a new rebirth of wonder


I am waiting

to get some intimations

of immortality

by recollecting my early childhood

and I am waiting

for the green mornings to come again  

youth’s dumb green fields come back again

and I am waiting

for some strains of unpremeditated art

to shake my typewriter

and I am waiting to write

the great indelible poem

and I am waiting

for the last long careless rapture

and I am perpetually waiting

for the fleeing lovers on the Grecian Urn  

to catch each other up at last

and embrace

and I am awaiting  

perpetually and forever

a renaissance of wonder


REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Violin Concerto (2nd movement) by Phillip Glass











Fragment

By  Thomas Hardy  


At last I entered a long dark gallery,

      Catacomb-lined; and ranged at the side

      Were the bodies of men from far and wide

Who, motion past, were nevertheless not dead.


      "The sense of waiting here strikes strong;

Everyone's waiting, waiting, it seems to me;

      What are you waiting for so long? —

            What is to happen?" I said.


"O we are waiting for one called God," said they,

      "(Though by some the Will, or Force, or Laws;

      And, vaguely, by some, the Ultimate Cause;)

Waiting for him to see us before we are clay.

      Yes; waiting, waiting, for God to know it." ...


      "To know what?" questioned I.

"To know how things have been going on earth and below it:

      It is clear he must know some day."

      I thereon asked them why.

"Since he made us humble pioneers

Of himself in consciousness of Life's tears,

It needs no mighty prophecy

To tell that what he could mindlessly show

His creatures, he himself will know.


"By some still close-cowled mystery

We have reached feeling faster than he,

But he will overtake us anon,

      If the world goes on."


REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Mystical Songs (2 & 3) by Ralph Vaughan Williams





Kneeling

By  R. S. Thomas 


Moments of great calm,

Kneeling before an altar

Of wood in a stone church

In summer, waiting for the God  

To speak; the air a staircase  

For silence; the sun’s light  

Ringing me, as though I acted  

A great rĂ´le. And the audiences  

Still; all that close throng

Of spirits waiting, as I,

For the message.

                         Prompt me, God;

But not yet. When I speak,  

Though it be you who speak  

Through me, something is lost.  

The meaning is in the waiting.


REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Qui habitat by Josquin des Prez









Depression

By  Charles Reznikoff  


So proudly she came into the subway car

all who were not reading their newspapers saw

the head high and the slow tread—

coat wrinkled and her belongings in a paper bag,

face unwashed and the grey hair uncombed;


simple soul, who so early in the morning when only the

    poorest go to work,

stood up in the subway and outshouting the noise:

“Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, I have a baby at home who

    is sick,

and I have no money, no job;” who did not have box or cap

    to take coins—

only his hands,

and, seeing only faces turned away,

did not even go down the aisle as beggars do;


the fire had burnt through the floor:

machines and merchandise had fallen into  

the great hole, this zero that had sucked away so many years

and now, seen at last, the shop itself;

the ceiling sloped until it almost touched the floor—

    a strange curve

in the lines and oblongs of his life;

drops were falling  

from the naked beams of the floor above,

from the soaked plaster, still the ceiling;

drops of dirty water were falling

on his clothes and hat and on his hands;

the thoughts of business

gathered in his bosom like black water

in footsteps through a swamp;


waiting for a job, she studied the dusty table at which she sat

and the floor which had been badly swept—

the office-boy had left the corners dirty;

a mouse ran in and out under the radiator

and she drew her feet away

and her skirt about her legs, but the mouse went in and out

about its business; and she sat waiting for a job

in an unfriendly world of men and mice;


walking along the drive by twos and threes,

talking about jobs,

jobs they might get and jobs they had had,

never turning to look at the trees or the river

glistening in the sunlight or the automobiles

that went swiftly past them—

in twos and threes talking about jobs;


in the drizzle

four in a row

close to the curb

that passers-by might pass,

the squads stand

waiting for soup,

a slice of bread

and shelter—

grimy clothes

their uniform;

on a stoop

stiffly across the steps

a man

who has fainted;

each in that battalion

eyes him,

but does not move from his place,

well drilled in want.


REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Bach's Blues by Oscar Peterson







Dedication


By  Franz Wright  


It’s true I never write, but I would gladly die with you.

Gladly lower myself down alone with you into the enormous mouth

that waits, beyond youth, beyond every instant of ecstasy, remember:

before battle we would do each other’s makeup, comb each other’s

                   hair out

saying we are unconquerable, we are terrible and splendid—

the mouth waiting, patiently waiting. And I will meet you there

                   again

beyond bleeding thorns, the endless dilation, the fire that alters

                   nothing;

I am there already past snowy clouds, balding moss, dim

swarm of stars even we can step over, it is easier this time, I promise—

I am already waiting in your personal heaven, here is my hand,

I will help you across. I would gladly die with you still,

although I never write 

from this gray institution. See

they are so busy trying to cure me,

I’m condemned—sorry, I have been given the job

of vacuuming the desert forever, well, no more than eight hours

                   a day.

And it’s really just about a thousand miles of cafeteria;

a large one in any event. With its miniature plastic knives,

its tuna salad and Saran-Wrapped genitalia will somebody

                   please

get me out of here, sorry. I am happy to say that

every method, massive pharmaceuticals, art therapy

and edifying films as well as others I would prefer

not to mention—I mean, every single technique

known to the mouth—sorry!—to our most kindly

compassionate science is being employed

to restore me to normal well-being

and cheerful stability. I go on vacuuming

toward a small diamond light burning

off in the distance. Remember

me. Do you

remember me?  

In the night’s windowless darkness

when I am lying cold and numb

and no one’s fiddling with the lock, or

shining flashlights in my eyes,

although I never write, secretly

I long to die with you,

does that count?


REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Cello Sonata (2nd movement) by Samuel Barber



Saturday, June 7, 2014

Poems about Working: Playlist for June 6, 2014


Lowering Your Standards for Food Stamps


By  Sheryl Luna  



Words fall out of my coat pocket,


soak in bleach water. I touch everyone’s


dirty dollars. Maslow’s got everything on me.


Fourteen hours on my feet. No breaks.


No smokes or lunch. Blank-eyed movements:


trash bags, coffee burner, fingers numb.


I am hourly protestations and false smiles.


The clock clicks its slow slowing.


Faces blur in a stream of  hurried soccer games,


sunlight, and church certainty. I have no


poem to carry, no material illusions.


Cola spilled on hands, so sticky fingered,


I’m far from poems. I’d write of politicians,


refineries, and a border’s barbed wire,


but I am unlearning America’s languages


with a mop. In a summer-hot red


polyester top, I sell lotto tickets. Cars wait for gas


billowing black. Killing time has new meaning.


A jackhammer breaks apart a life. The slow globe


spirals, and at night black space has me dizzy.


Visionaries off their meds and wacked out


meth heads sing to me. A panicky fear of robbery


and humiliation drips with my sweat.


Words some say are weeping twilight and sunrise.


I am drawn to dramas, the couple arguing, the man


headbutting his wife in the parking lot.


911: no metered aubade, and nobody but


myself to blame.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Reflections in D by Duke Ellington






The Professor


By  Joshua Mehigan  



I get there early and I find a chair.


I squeeze my plastic cup of wine. I nod.


I maladroitly eat a pretzel rod


and second an opinion I don’t share.


I think: whatever else I am, I’m there.


Afterwards, I escape across the quad


into fresh air, alone again, thank god.


Nobody cares. They’re quite right not to care.



I can’t go home. Even my family


is thoroughly contemptuous of me.


I look bad. I’m exactly how I look.


These days I never read, but no one does,


and, anyhow, I proved how smart I was.


Everything I know is from a book.


REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Nowhere Man by John Lennon









Thanking My Mother for Piano Lessons


By  Diane Wakoski  



The relief of putting your fingers on the keyboard,  


as if you were walking on the beach


and found a diamond


as big as a shoe;



as if


you had just built a wooden table


and the smell of sawdust was in the air,  


your hands dry and woody;



as if


you had eluded


the man in the dark hat who had been following you  


all week;



the relief


of putting your fingers on the keyboard,  


playing the chords of


Beethoven,


Bach,


Chopin


         in an afternoon when I had no one to talk to,


         when the magazine advertisement forms of soft sweaters  


         and clean shining Republican middle-class hair


         walked into carpeted houses  


         and left me alone


         with bare floors and a few books



I want to thank my mother  


for working every day


in a drab office


in garages and water companies


cutting the cream out of her coffee at 40


to lose weight, her heavy body


writing its delicate bookkeeper’s ledgers


alone, with no man to look at her face,  


her body, her prematurely white hair  


in love


         I want to thank


my mother for working and always paying for  


my piano lessons


before she paid the Bank of America loan  


or bought the groceries


or had our old rattling Ford repaired.



I was a quiet child,


afraid of walking into a store alone,


afraid of the water,


the sun,


the dirty weeds in back yards,


afraid of my mother’s bad breath,


and afraid of my father’s occasional visits home,  


knowing he would leave again;


afraid of not having any money,


afraid of my clumsy body,


that I knew


         no one would ever love



But I played my way


on the old upright piano


obtained for $10,


played my way through fear,


through ugliness,


through growing up in a world of dime-store purchases,  


and a desire to love


a loveless world.



I played my way through an ugly face


and lonely afternoons, days, evenings, nights,  


mornings even, empty


as a rusty coffee can,


played my way through the rustles of spring


and wanted everything around me to shimmer like the narrow tide  


on a flat beach at sunset in Southern California,


I played my way through


an empty father’s hat in my mother’s closet


and a bed she slept on only one side of,


never wrinkling an inch of


the other side,


waiting,  


waiting,



I played my way through honors in school,  


the only place I could


talk


       the classroom,


       or at my piano lessons, Mrs. Hillhouse’s canary always  


       singing the most for my talents,


       as if I had thrown some part of my body away upon entering  


       her house


       and was now searching every ivory case


       of the keyboard, slipping my fingers over black  


       ridges and around smooth rocks,


       wondering where I had lost my bloody organs,  


       or my mouth which sometimes opened


       like a California poppy,


       wide and with contrasts


       beautiful in sweeping fields,


       entirely closed morning and night,



I played my way from age to age,


but they all seemed ageless


or perhaps always


old and lonely,


wanting only one thing, surrounded by the dusty bitter-smelling  


leaves of orange trees,


wanting only to be touched by a man who loved me,  


who would be there every night


to put his large strong hand over my shoulder,


whose hips I would wake up against in the morning,  


whose mustaches might brush a face asleep,


dreaming of pianos that made the sound of Mozart  


and Schubert without demanding


that life suck everything


out of you each day,


without demanding the emptiness


of a timid little life.



I want to thank my mother


for letting me wake her up sometimes at 6 in the morning  


when I practiced my lessons


and for making sure I had a piano


to lay my school books down on, every afternoon.


I haven’t touched the piano in 10 years,


perhaps in fear that what little love I’ve been able to


pick, like lint, out of the corners of pockets,


will get lost,


slide away,


into the terribly empty cavern of me


if I ever open it all the way up again.


Love is a man


with a mustache


gently holding me every night,


always being there when I need to touch him;


he could not know the painfully loud


music from the past that


his loving stops from pounding, banging,


battering through my brain,


which does its best to destroy the precarious gray matter when I  


am alone;


he does not hear Mrs. Hillhouse’s canary singing for me,


liking the sound of my lesson this week,


telling me,


confirming what my teacher says,  


that I have a gift for the piano  


few of her other pupils had.


When I touch the man


I love,


I want to thank my mother for giving me  


piano lessons


all those years,


keeping the memory of Beethoven,


a deaf tortured man,


in mind;


            of the beauty that can come


from even an ugly


past.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Prelude in F-sharp major, Op. 28/13 by Frederic Chopin






Happiness

By  Paisley Rekdal  



I have been taught never to brag but now


I cannot help it: I keep


a beautiful garden, all abundance,


indiscriminate, pulling itself


from the stubborn earth: does it offend you


to watch me working in it,


touching my hands to the greening tips or


tearing the yellow stalks back, so wild


the living and the dead both


snap off in my hands?


The neighbor with his stuttering


fingers, the neighbor with his broken


love: each comes up my drive


to receive his pitying,


accustomed consolations, watches me


work in silence awhile, rises in anger,


walks back. Does it offend them to watch me


not mourning with them but working


fitfully, fruitlessly, working


the way the bees work, which is to say


by instinct alone, which looks like pleasure?


I can stand for hours among the sweet


narcissus, silent as a point of bone.


I can wait longer than sadness. I can wait longer


than your grief. It is such a small thing


to be proud of, a garden. Today


there were scrub jays, quail,


a woodpecker knocking at the white-


and-black shapes of trees, and someone’s lost rabbit


scratching under the barberry: is it


indiscriminate? Should it shrink back, wither,


and expurgate? Should I, too, not be loved?


It is only a little time, a little space.


Why not watch the grasses take up their colors in a rush


like a stream of kerosene being lit?


If I could not have made this garden beautiful


I wouldn’t understand your suffering,


nor care for each the same, inflamed way.


I would have to stay only like the bees,


beyond consciousness, beyond


self-reproach, fingers dug down hard


into stone, and growing nothing.


There is no end to ego,


with its museum of disappointments.


I want to take my neighbors into the garden


and show them: Here is consolation.


Here is your pity. Look how much seed it drops


around the sparrows as they fight.


It lives alongside their misery.


It glows each evening with a violent light.


REFLECTIVE MUSIC: In A Summer Garden by Frederick Delius




“Find Work”


 “Find Work”


By  Rhina P. Espaillat 



I tie my Hat—I crease my Shawl—

Life's little duties do—precisely

As the very least

Were infinite—to me—

 —Emily Dickinson, #443


My mother’s mother, widowed very young


of her first love, and of that love’s first fruit,


moved through her father’s farm, her country tongue


and country heart anaesthetized and mute


with labor. So her kind was taught to do—


“Find work,” she would reply to every grief—


and her one dictum, whether false or true,


tolled heavy with her passionate belief.


Widowed again, with children, in her prime,


she spoke so little it was hard to bear


so much composure, such a truce with time


spent in the lifelong practice of despair.


But I recall her floors, scrubbed white as bone,


her dishes, and how painfully they shone.


REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Holy Manna



Happiness


I have been taught never to brag but now

I cannot help it: I keep

a beautiful garden, all abundance,

indiscriminate, pulling itself

from the stubborn earth: does it offend you

to watch me working in it,

touching my hands to the greening tips or

tearing the yellow stalks back, so wild

the living and the dead both

snap off in my hands?

The neighbor with his stuttering

fingers, the neighbor with his broken

love: each comes up my drive

to receive his pitying,

accustomed consolations, watches me

work in silence awhile, rises in anger,

walks back. Does it offend them to watch me

not mourning with them but working

fitfully, fruitlessly, working

the way the bees work, which is to say

by instinct alone, which looks like pleasure?

I can stand for hours among the sweet

narcissus, silent as a point of bone.

I can wait longer than sadness. I can wait longer

than your grief. It is such a small thing

to be proud of, a garden. Today

there were scrub jays, quail,

a woodpecker knocking at the white-

and-black shapes of trees, and someone’s lost rabbit

scratching under the barberry: is it

indiscriminate? Should it shrink back, wither,

and expurgate? Should I, too, not be loved?

It is only a little time, a little space.

Why not watch the grasses take up their colors in a rush

like a stream of kerosene being lit?

If I could not have made this garden beautiful

I wouldn’t understand your suffering,

nor care for each the same, inflamed way.

I would have to stay only like the bees,

beyond consciousness, beyond

self-reproach, fingers dug down hard

into stone, and growing nothing.

There is no end to ego,

with its museum of disappointments.

I want to take my neighbors into the garden

and show them: Here is consolation.

Here is your pity. Look how much seed it drops

around the sparrows as they fight.

It lives alongside their misery.

It glows each evening with a violent light.