Friday, February 21, 2014

Poems which reference musical instruments: Playlist for February 14, 2014

Some Instances

By  Charles Baxter  

To be free of situations,

To live from day to day without events

And to be free from the need to narrate them.

One small detail, the blossoming crab apple,

For example, on the lengthening boulevard

Of the stanza, this very one,

That parallels the perturbation of the waves

Mid-April—the Mississippi flowing above the locks

Of Minneapolis, once called St. Anthony—

Two blocks away, the river high with snowmelt,

And where this morning I heard the call

Of what I took to be a sparrow, white-throated,

The leap of a minor third

Two octaves above middle C.

Four birds outside this afternoon. Four distinct calls

In a dispirited late daylight.

And you? “You”? Waiting to experience a moment

That has no precedent. The wish to be a child,

Or the wish to be outside of time,

The craving, that is, for a kind of death

In which one stays somehow alert...

Listening to the Schumann Violin Concerto:

Written in that last period as he descended into the madness

Brought on by syphilis when he heard the singing

Of the angels, this piece was thought to be unplayable

Until the metronome markings were ignored;

In the second movement a brief passage comes and goes

Like the frenzied clustering of bees, pure monotony,

Like madness gathering its forces. Clara, Schumann’s wife,

Asked that the piece never be performed, but one musician

Said of his music that all madness contains a kind

Of vulgarity, but even after he went insane,

Schumann’s music retained that odd nobility.

Outside, sounds of traffic, a woman’s cry from down the street.

Idea for a frightening story:

Last week I heard a scream so distant that it

Had lost its call-to-rescue and its horror—dim vehemence,

Like an auto accident seen from a train,

The blood grown small, and the outcries

As soundless as a branch in wind,

Or like a child in snow straggling behind his parents,

The drifts so deep he has trouble making headway,

Being five years old, and so he calls out to them,

“Hold!” because he cannot think of the proper word—

Probably “Wait” or “Stop,”—and when they hear

Him begging them to slow down and to wait for him,

They turn around to laugh. Their laughter makes the child

Sad and enraged, so he stops to cry,

Whereupon his parents, still amused, bring out a camera

To snap a picture of him as he wails.

He understands that his unhappiness

Was a diversion to them both, that they were bored

By children and therefore found him comical,

So there they are, laughing with delight.

Today, sixty years later, he is

Photographed, bundled in his winter coat.

Oh, and the bored laughter, behind the camera,

And the impossibility, the inconsequence

Of any sympathy.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Violin Concert (finale) by Robert Schumann



By  Anne Stevenson   

Whenever my father was left with nothing to do —

      waiting for someone to 'get ready',

or facing the gap between graduate seminars

      and dull after-suppers in his study

grading papers or writing a review —

      he played the piano.

I think of him packing his lifespan

      carefully, like a good leather briefcase,

each irritating chore wrapped in floating passages

      for the left hand and right hand

by Chopin or difficult Schumann;

      nothing inside it ever rattled loose.

Not rationalism, though you could cut your tongue

      on the blade of his reasonable logic.

Only at the piano did he become

      the bowed, reverent, wholly absorbed Romantic.

The theme of his heroic, unfinished piano sonata

      could have been Brahms.

Boredom, or what he disapproved of as

      'sitting around with your mouth open'

oddly pursued him. He had small stamina.

      Whenever he succumbed to bouts of winter bronchitis,

the house sank a little into its snowed-up garden,

      missing its musical swim-bladder.

None of this suggests how natural he was.

      For years I thought fathers played the piano

just as dogs barked and babies grew.

      We children ran in and out of the house,

taking for granted that the 'Trout' or E flat Major Impromptu

      would be rippling around us.

For him, I think, playing was solo flying, a bliss

      of removal, of being alone.

Not happily always; never an escape,

      for he was affectionate, and the household hum

he pretended to find trivial or ridiculous

      daily sustained him.

When he talked about music, it was never

      of the lachrimae rerum

that trembled from his drawn-out phrasing

      as raindrops phrase themselves along a wire;

no, he defended movable doh or explained the amazing

      physics of the octave.

We'd come in from school and find him

      cross-legged on the jungle of the floor,

guts from one of his Steinways strewn about him.

      He always got the pieces back in place.

I remember the yellow covers of Schirmer's Editions

      and the bound Peters Editions in the bookcase.

When he defected to the cello in later years

      Grandmother, in excrucio, mildly exclaimed,

'Wasn't it lovely when Steve liked to play the piano.'

      Now I'm the grandmother listening to Steve at the piano.

Lightly, in strains from Brahms-Haydn variations,

      his audible image returns to my humming ears.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Nocturne in D-flat, by Frederic Chopin

At a Symphony

By  Louise Imogen Guiney 

Oh, I would have these tongues oracular

Dip into silence, tease no more, let be!

They madden, like some choral of the free

Gusty and sweet against a prison-bar.

To earth the boast that her gold empires are,

The menace of delicious death to me,

Great Undesign, strong as by God’s decree,

Piercing the heart with beauty from afar!

Music too winning to the sense forlorn!

Of what angelic lineage was she born,

Bred in what rapture?—These her sires and friends:

Censure, Denial, Gloom, and Hunger’s throe.

Praised be the Spirit that thro’ thee, Schubert! so

Wrests evil unto wholly heavenly ends.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Symphony No. 9 (1st. movement) by Franz Schubert

Not Ideas About the Thing but the Thing Itself

Not Ideas About the Thing but the Thing Itself

By Wallace Stevens

At the earliest ending of winter,

In March, a scrawny cry from outside

Seemed like a sound in his mind.

He knew that he heard it,

A bird’s cry at daylight or before,

In the early March wind

The sun was rising at six,

No longer a battered panache above snow . . .

It would have been outside.

It was not from the vast ventriloquism

Of sleep’s faded papier mâché . . .

The sun was coming from outside.

That scrawny cry—it was

A chorister whose c preceded the choir.

It was part of the colossal sun,

Surrounded by its choral rings,

Still far away. It was like

A new knowledge of reality.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC:  The Heavens Are Telling by Joseph Haydn

At the Choral Concert

By  Tim Nolan  

The high school kids are so beautiful

in their lavender blouses and crisp white shirts.

They open their mouths to sing with that

far-off stare they had looking out from the crib.

Their voices lift up from the marble bed

of the high altar to the blue endless ceiling

of heaven as depicted in the cloudy dome—

and we—as the parents—crane our necks

to see our children and what is above us—

and ahead of us—until the end when we

are invited up to sing with them—sopranos

and altos—tenors and basses—to sing the great

Hallelujah Chorus—and I’m standing with the other

stunned and gray fathers—holding our sheet music—

searching for our parts—and we realize—

our voices are surprisingly rich—experienced—

For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth—

and how do we all know to come in

at exactly the right moment?—Forever and ever—

and how can it not seem that we shall reign

forever and ever—in one voice with our beautiful

children—looking out into all those lights.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Hallelujah by G.F. Handel

Poems about Home: Playlist for February 21, 2014

The Props assist the House (729)

By  Emily Dickinson    

The Props assist the House

Until the House is built

And then the Props withdraw

And adequate, erect,

The House support itself

And cease to recollect

The Augur and the Carpenter –

Just such a retrospect

Hath the perfected Life –

A Past of Plank and Nail

And slowness – then the scaffolds drop

Affirming it a Soul –
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Alleluia & Fugue for String Orchestra by Alan Hovhaness

Home Fire

By  Linda Parsons Marion  

Whether on the boulevard or gravel backroad,

I do not easily raise my hand to those who toss

up theirs in anonymous hello, merely to say

“I’m passing this way.” Once out of shyness, now

reluctance to tip my hand, I admire the shrubbery

instead. I’ve learned where the lines are drawn

and keep the privet well trimmed. I left one house

with toys on the floor for another with quiet rugs

and a bed where the moon comes in. I’ve thrown

myself at men in black turtlenecks only to find

that home is best after all. Home where I sit

in the glider, knowing it needs oil, like my own

rusty joints. Where I coax blackberry to dogwood

and winter to harvest, where my table is clothed

in light. Home where I walk out on the thin page

of night, without waving or giving myself away,

and return with my words burning like fire in the grate.     

REFLECTIVE MUSIC:  Andante cantabile by P. Tchaikovsky


Home Movies: A Sort of Ode

By  Mary Jo Salter                       

Because it hadn't seemed enough,

after a while, to catalogue

more Christmases, the three-layer cakes

ablaze with birthday candles, the blizzard

Billy took a shovel to,

Phil's lawnmower tour of the yard,

the tree forts, the shoot-'em-ups

between the boys in new string ties

and cowboy hats and holsters,

or Mother sticking a bow as big

as Mouseketeer ears in my hair,

my father sometimes turned the gaze

of his camera to subjects more

artistic or universal:

long closeups of a rose's face;

a real-time sunset (nearly an hour);

what surely were some brilliant autumn

leaves before their colors faded

to dry beige on the aging film;

a great deal of pacing, at the zoo,

by polar bears and tigers caged,

he seemed to say, like him.

What happened between him and her

is another story. And just as well

we have no movie of it, only

some unforgiving scowls she gave

through terrifying, ticking silence

when he must have asked her (no

sound track) for a smile.

Still, what I keep yearning for

isn't those generic cherry

blossoms at their peak, or the brave

daffodil after a snowfall,

it's the re-run surprise

of the unshuttered, prefab blanks

of windows at the back of the house,

and how the lines of aluminum

siding are scribbled on with meaning

only for us who lived there;

it's the pair of elephant bookends

I'd forgotten, with the upraised trunks

like handles, and the books they meant

to carry in one block to a future

that scattered all of us.

And look: it's the stoneware mixing bowl

figured with hand-holding dancers

handed down so many years

ago to my own kitchen, still

valueless, unbroken. Here

she's happy, teaching us to dye

the Easter eggs in it, a Grecian

urn of sorts near which—a foster

child of silence and slow time

myself—I smile because she does

and patiently await my turn.     
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Lyric Pieces by Edvard Grieg

Going Home: New Orleans

By  Sheryl St. Germain   

for my grandmother, Theresa Frank

Some slow evenings when the light hangs late and stubborn in the sky,

gives itself up to darkness slowly and deliberately, slow cloud after slow cloud,

slowness enters me like something familiar,

and it feels like going home.

It’s all there in the disappearing light:

all the evenings of slow sky and slow loving, slow boats on sluggish bayous;

the thick-middled trees with the slow-sounding names—oak, mimosa, pecan, magnolia;

the slow tree sap that sticks in your hair when you lie with the trees;

and the maple syrup and pancakes and grits, the butter melting

slowly into and down the sides like sweat between breasts of sloe-eyed strippers;

and the slow-throated blues that floats over the city like fog;

and the weeping, the willows, the cut onions, the cayenne, the slow-cooking beans with marrow-thick gravy;

and all the mint juleps drunk so slowly on all the slow southern porches,

the bourbon and sugar and mint going down warm and brown, syrup and slow;

and all the ice cubes melting in all the iced teas,

all the slow-faced people sitting in all the slowly rocking rockers;

and the crabs and the shrimp and crawfish, the hard shells

slowly and deliberately and lovingly removed, the delicate flesh

slowly sucked out of heads and legs and tails;

and the slow lips that eat and drink and love and speak

that slow luxurious language, savoring each word like a long-missed lover;

and the slow-moving nuns, the black habits dragging the swollen ground;

and the slow river that cradles it all, and the chicory coffee

that cuts through it all, slow-boiled and black as dirt;

and the slow dreams and the slow-healing wounds and the slow smoke of it all

slipping out, ballooning into the sky—slow, deliberate, and magnificent.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: A Dear Old Southland by Turner Layton, performed by Allen Toussaint

Goin’ Home

By William Arms Fisher

Going home, going home,
I'm just going home.
Quiet-like, slip away-
I'll be going home.
It's not far, just close by;
Jesus is the Door;
Work all done, laid aside,
Fear and grief no more.
Friends are there, waiting now.
He is waiting, too.
See His smile! See His hand!
He will lead me through.

Morning Star lights the way;
Restless dream all done;
Shadows gone, break of day,
Life has just begun.
Every tear wiped away,
Pain and sickness gone;
Wide awake there with Him!
Peace goes on and on!
Going home, going home,
I'll be going home.
See the Light! See the Sun!
I'm just going home.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Adagio from "New World" Symphony, by Antonin Dvorak

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Poetry about Musical Instruments: Playlist for January 31, 2014


by A. S. Maulucci



His tortured soul produced angelic sounds

and the sensitive spirit quivers

in glad harmony with the trembling strings.

The orchestra booms and echoes

a hard truth in sweet sadness.

My weeping soul follows

with tenderness and love

into the dark and twisting

chambers of the heart,

emerging triumphant onto a bright horizon

as if soaring on the delicate wings

of strong dragonflies and iridescent eagles.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Violin Concerto in D (Larghetto) by L. van Beethoven




Bass abstract 

b l u e s 

rippled thunder of forest deep 

spirit lord ~ melancholy essence 

so dark trembling and long your 



bow & string playful 

come to heaven double-octave surge 

thought ~ texture ~ romance ~ agony of souls 

ice cool mystery rippled


plucked strings as the serene of an orchid 

shaman's magic across Etruscan stones 

sound so very careful, pure & low 

down down below the last strand of imagining 

glory exalted ~ glory to God  

a shimmering dance  

your rapture 

traveling the pizzicoto vivace treble clef, 

spice road of bronze ebony 

baritone of an almost infinity. 


Cello, you do not know 

what a spell you caste over me!!
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Suite in G for Cello, by J.S. Bach


The Nomad Flute
by W.S. Merwin

You that sang to me once sing to me now
let me hear your long lifted note
survive with me
the star is fading
I can think farther than that but I forget
do you hear me

do you still hear me
does your air
remember you
oh breath of morning
night song morning song
I have with me
all that I do not know
I have lost none of it

but I know better now
than to ask you
where you learned that music
where any of it came from
once there were lions in China

I will listen until the flute stops
and the light is old again

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Fantasie for Flute and Piano by Phillipe Gaubert




By D.H. Lawrence

Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;
Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.

In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide.

So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamour
With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour
Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Rhapsody in B Minor, Op. 79/1 by Johannes Brahms