By Lisel Mueller
Outside the house the wind is howling
and the trees are creaking horribly.
This is an old story
with its old beginning,
as I lay me down to sleep.
But when I wake up, sunlight
has taken over the room.
You have already made the coffee
and the radio brings us music
from a confident age. In the paper
bad news is set in distant places.
Whatever was bound to happen
in my story did not happen.
But I know there are rules that cannot be broken.
Perhaps a name was changed.
A small mistake. Perhaps
a woman I do not know
is facing the day with the heavy heart
that, by all rights, should have been mine.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Concerto for Two Violins in A minor by Antonio Vivaldi
Like Coins, November
elizabeth klise von zerneck
We drove past late fall fields as flat and cold
as sheets of tin and, in the distance, trees
were tossed like coins against the sky. Stunned gold
and bronze, oaks, maples stood in twos and threes:
some copper bright, a few dull brown and, now
and then, the shock of one so steeled with frost
it glittered like a dime. The autumn boughs
and blackened branches wore a somber gloss
that whispered tails to me, not heads. I read
memorial columns in their trunks; their leaves
spelled UNUM, cent; and yours, the only head . . .
in penny profile, Lincoln-like (one sleeve,
one eye) but even it was turning tails
as russet leaves lay spent across the trails.
Winter's Tale by Lars-Erik Larsson
November, Late in the Day
john M. Ridland
So this is aging: the bare sun, skinned,
palely bucking the dark wind,
slides through the glass, crawls on the carpet,
climbs the footboard, lies crosswise on the blanket,
a spoiled dog waiting to be fed.
Not now, dear warmth. The kindling’s in the shed,
too far to fetch. Those two great logs that close
together to make fire, repose
apart, an old couple reminiscing
on conflagrations they’re now missing:
how every sunny Saturday afternoon,
Hey, diddle-diddle, the dish ran away with the spoon.
Not yet, dear spoon. Some hotter day, dear dish.
No tidbits now. Instead, let’s make a wish,
and boil fresh water for the small teapot
to keep it piping hot.
Sonata for Violin & Cello (2nd movement) by Maurice Ravel
Music Swims Back to Me
Wait Mister. Which way is home?
They turned the light out
and the dark is moving in the corner.
There are no sign posts in this room,
four ladies, over eighty,
in diapers every one of them.
La la la, Oh music swims back to me
and I can feel the tune they played
the night they left me
in this private institution on a hill.
Imagine it. A radio playing
and everyone here was crazy.
I liked it and danced in a circle.
Music pours over the sense
and in a funny way
music sees more than I.
I mean it remembers better;
remembers the first night here.
It was the strangled cold of November;
even the stars were strapped in the sky
and that moon too bright
forking through the bars to stick me
with a singing in the head.
I have forgotten all the rest.
They lock me in this chair at eight a.m.
and there are no signs to tell the way,
just the radio beating to itself
and the song that remembers
more than I. Oh, la la la,
this music swims back to me.
The night I came I danced a circle
and was not afraid.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Haunted Heart sung by Jo Stafford
Mythmaking on the Merritt Parkway
Aluminum sky. Only November
Leaks into early frost
Like a ruptured jug
Of gas. I’d rather hold
Onto this road with pliers
Than have another face of you
Frisk my heart. Cool hands,
The touch of every moon
Is crucial and incomplete
As a sponge bath. Leaving
A backbone of lights
Behind me, a blinking string
Of pelts in fox country,
I long to slice through
Connecticut’s middle, marbled
And pink as medium-rare beef.
I dream you.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: November, sung by Catherine Russell