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
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
“no,” I tell him, “but quit your job, go into a
small room and do the
“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
“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!’”
“I walked out.”
“you mean you left him there with
“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
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
“do any of those people,” he asks “know you are a
writer, that you write poetry?”
“you never talk about
it. not even to
me! if I hadn’t seen you in that magazine I’d
have never known.”
“still, I’d like to tell these people that you are a
“I’d still like to
“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
“they talk you down. I’d like to defend you. I’d like to tell
them you write
“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—”
“all right, I’ll respect your
wishes. but there’s something else—”
“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
“buy a piano.”
he walks away
I was thinking about it
too: I figure he can always come over with his
violin and more
REFLECTIVE MUSIC:Piano Blues by Aaron Copland
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
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).