Saturday, November 19, 2016



Tree At My Window
by Robert Frost
Tree at my window, window tree,
My sash is lowered when night comes on;
But let there never be curtain drawn
Between you and me.

Vague dream head lifted out of the ground,
And thing next most diffuse to cloud,
Not all your light tongues talking aloud
Could be profound.

But tree, I have seen you taken and tossed,
And if you have seen me when I slept,
You have seen me when I was taken and swept
And all but lost.

That day she put our heads together,
Fate had her imagination about her,
Your head so much concerned with outer,
Mine with inner, weather.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra
by John Williams

The Trees are Down

BY Charlotte Mew

And he cried with a loud voice: 
Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees—

They are cutting down the great plane-trees at the end of the gardens. 
For days there has been the grate of the saw, the swish of the branches as they fall, 
The crash of the trunks, the rustle of trodden leaves, 
With the ‘Whoops’ and the ‘Whoas,’ the loud common talk, the loud common laughs of the men, above it all. 

I remember one evening of a long past Spring 
Turning in at a gate, getting out of a cart, and finding a large dead rat in the mud of the drive. 
I remember thinking: alive or dead, a rat was a god-forsaken thing, 
But at least, in May, that even a rat should be alive. 

The week’s work here is as good as done. There is just one bough 
   On the roped bole, in the fine grey rain, 
             Green and high 
             And lonely against the sky. 
                   (Down now!—) 
             And but for that,   
             If an old dead rat 
Did once, for a moment, unmake the Spring, I might never have thought of him again. 

It is not for a moment the Spring is unmade to-day; 
These were great trees, it was in them from root to stem: 
When the men with the ‘Whoops’ and the ‘Whoas’ have carted the whole of the whispering loveliness away 
Half the Spring, for me, will have gone with them. 

It is going now, and my heart has been struck with the hearts of the planes; 
Half my life it has beat with these, in the sun, in the rains,    
             In the March wind, the May breeze, 
In the great gales that came over to them across the roofs from the great seas. 
             There was only a quiet rain when they were dying; 
             They must have heard the sparrows flying,   
And the small creeping creatures in the earth where they were lying— 
             But I, all day, I heard an angel crying: 
             ‘Hurt not the trees.’

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: The Trees by Jean Sibelius

Native Trees

BY W. S. Merwin
Neither my father nor my mother knew 
the names of the trees 
where I was born 
what is that 
I asked and my 
father and mother did not 
hear they did not look where I pointed 
surfaces of furniture held 
the attention of their fingers 
and across the room they could watch 
walls they had forgotten 
where there were no questions 
no voices and no shade 

Were there trees 
where they were children 
where I had not been 
I asked 
were there trees in those places 
where my father and my mother were born 
and in that time did 
my father and my mother see them 
and when they said yes it meant 
they did not remember 
What were they I asked what were they 
but both my father and my mother 
said they never knew

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Sonata for Harp and Guitar by Alan Hovhaness

Landscape, Dense with Trees

BY Ellen Bryan Voigt
When you move away, you see how much depends 
on the pace of the days—how much 
depended on the haze we waded through 
each summer, visible heat, wavy and discursive 
as the lazy track of the snake in the dusty road; 
and on the habit in town of porches thatched in vines, 
and in the country long dense promenades, the way 
we sacrificed the yards to shade. 
It was partly the heat that made my father 
plant so many trees—two maples marking the site 
for the house, two elms on either side when it was done; 
mimosa by the fence, and as it failed, fast-growing chestnuts, 
loblolly pines; and dogwood, redbud, ornamental crab. 
On the farm, everything else he grew 
something could eat, but this 
would be a permanent mark of his industry, 
a glade established in the open field. Or so it seemed. 
Looking back at the empty house from across the hill, 
I see how well the house is camouflaged, see how 
that porous fence of saplings, their later 
scrim of foliage, thickened around it, 
and still he chinked and mortared, planting more. 
Last summer, although he’d lost all tolerance for heat, 
he backed the truck in at the family grave 
and stood in the truckbed all afternoon, pruning 
the landmark oak, repairing recent damage by a wind; 
then he came home and hung a swing 
in one of the horse-chestnuts for my visit. 
The heat was a hand at his throat, 
a fist to his weak heart. But it made a triumph 
of the cooler air inside, in the bedroom, 
in the maple bedstead where he slept, 
in the brick house nearly swamped by leaves.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Sonata for Clarinet, Cello & Piano by Rick Sowash

The Tree at Frost’s Window Replies

by Evelyn Hooven 

“Not all your light tongues talking aloud 
Could be profound.  .  .”

(from Robert Frost’s “Tree at My Window”)

You don’t know me very well—
You think you’re someone special
To relate to me at all,
But you’ve really no notion
Of what it is to be me,
Not of my motion,
You think me still
Secure and trivial
Compared with you
Though I’ve lived longer—
Through birth, blight
And deepest winter
Where just the lasting makes
A kind of stature.
I may lose and recover
More than you dream
Though to you I seem
A simple tree
To fasten your fancy on
And generous you
To lift the sash
Compare heads
And concentrate on me,
Refusing to sentimentalize,
Also refusing to see
Some wisdom that’s my own.
A blight or axe
Might strike me down
But I can live on rain—
When you go, I’ll stand.
I thrive on nature’s silence,
You talk to fill the void.
This motion of mine
Is no dumb wind
                              but laughter.  .  .

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Three Capriccios by Evaristo Dall'Abaco

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Election Day


Exquisite Candidate

Denise Duhamel, 1961

I can promise you this: food in the White House
will change! No more granola, only fried eggs
flipped the way we like them. And ham ham ham!
Americans need ham! Nothing airy like debate for me!
Pigs will become the new symbol of glee,
displacing smiley faces and “Have A Nice Day.”
Car bumpers are my billboards, billboards my movie screens.
Nothing I can say can be used against me.
My life flashes in front of my face daily.
Here’s a snapshot of me as a baby. Then
marrying. My kids drink all their milk which helps the dairy industry.
A vote for me is not only a pat on the back for America!
A vote for me, my fellow Americans, is a vote for everyone like me!
If I were the type who made promises
I’d probably begin by saying: America,
relax! Buy big cars and tease your hair
as high as the Empire State Building. 
Inch by inch, we’re buying the world’s sorrow.
Yeah, the world’s sorrow, that’s it!
The other side will have a lot to say about pork
but don’t believe it! Their graphs are sloppy coloring books.
We’re just fine—look at the way
everyone wants to speak English and live here!
Whatever you think of borders,
I am the only candidate to canoe over Niagara Falls
and live to photograph the Canadian side.
I’m the only Julliard graduate—
I will exhale beauty all across this great land
of pork rinds and gas stations and scientists working for cures,
of satellite dishes over Sparky’s Bar & Grill, the ease
of breakfast in the mornings, quiet peace of sleep at night. 
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Burlesque (from "Music for the Theater") by Aaron Copland

My Mother Goes to Vote
by Judith Harris

We walked five blocks 
to the elementary school, 
my mother’s high heels 
crunching through playground gravel. 
We entered through a side door.

Down the long corridor, 
decorated with Halloween masks, 
health department safety posters— 
we followed the arrows 
to the third grade classroom.

My mother stepped alone 
into the booth, pulling the curtain behind her. 
I could see only the backs of her 
calves in crinkled nylons.

A partial vanishing, then reappearing 
pocketbook crooked on her elbow, 
our mayor’s button pinned to her lapel. 
Even then I could see—to choose
is to follow what has already 
been decided.

We marched back out 
finding a new way back down streets 
named for flowers 
and accomplished men. 
I said their names out loud, as we found

our way home, to the cramped house, 
the devoted porch light left on, 
the customary meatloaf.
I remember, in the classroom converted 
into a voting place— 
there were two mothers, conversing, 
squeezed into the children’s desk chairs.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Mad Rush, by Philip Glass

The Tragic Condition of the Statue of Liberty
by Bernadette Mayer

                                      A collaboration with Emma Lazarus

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Give me your gentrificatees of the Lower East Side including all the well-heeled young Europeans who’ll take apartments without leases
Give me your landlords, give me your cooperators
Give me the guys who sell the food and the computers to the public schools in District One
Give me the IRS-FBI-CIA men who don’t take election day off
Give me the certain members of the school board & give me the district superintendent
Give me all the greedy members of both american & foreign capitalist religious sects
Give me the parents of the punk people
Give me the guy who puts those stickers in the Rice Krispies
Give me the doctor who thinks his time is more valuable than mine and my daughter’s & the time of all the other non-doctors in this world
Give me the mayor, his mansion, and the president & his white house
Give me the cops who laugh and sneer at meetings where they demonstrate the new uses of mace and robots instead of the old murder against people who are being evicted
Give me the landlord’s sleazy lawyers and the deal-making judges in housing court & give me the landlord’s arsonist
Give me the known & unknown big important rich guys who now bank on our quaint neighborhood
Give me, forgive me, the writers who have already or want to write bestsellers in this country
Together we will go to restore Ellis Island, ravaged for years by wind, weather and vandals
I was surprised and saddened when I heard that the Statue of Liberty was in such a serious state of disrepair & I want to help
This is the most generous contribution I can afford.

REFELCTIVE MUSIC: Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor by Irving Berlin
American Melting Pot by Henry Cowell

I Hear America Singing

Walt Whitman, 1819 - 1892

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe
     and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the
     deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing
     as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the
     morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at
     work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young
     fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Fanfare For the Common Man by Aaron Copland
 performed by Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Let America Be America Again

Langston Hughes, 1902 - 1967

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”
The free?
Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: New Day A-Comin' by Duke Ellington