Saturday, May 28, 2016

Poetry about Rain: May 27, 2016

By Edward Thomas 1878–1917

Rain, midnight rain, nothing but the wild rain

On this bleak hut, and solitude, and me

Remembering again that I shall die

And neither hear the rain nor give it thanks

For washing me cleaner than I have been

Since I was born into solitude.

Blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon:

But here I pray that none whom once I loved

Is dying tonight or lying still awake

Solitary, listening to the rain,

Either in pain or thus in sympathy

Helpless among the living and the dead,

Like a cold water among broken reeds,

Myriads of broken reeds all still and stiff,

Like me who have no love which this wild rain

Has not dissolved except the love of death,

If love it be towards what is perfect and

Cannot, the tempest tells me, disappoint.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Death and Resurrection by Toru Takemitsu

The Rain

By Robert Creeley 1926–2005   

All night the sound had

come back again,

and again falls

this quiet, persistent rain.

What am I to myself

that must be remembered,

insisted upon

so often? Is it

that never the ease,

even the hardness,

of rain falling

will have for me

something other than this,

something not so insistent—

am I to be locked in this

final uneasiness.

Love, if you love me,

lie next to me.

Be for me, like rain,

the getting out

of the tiredness, the fatuousness, the semi-

lust of intentional indifference.

Be wet

with a decent happiness.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Jardins sous la pluie by Claude Debussy

A Prayer for Rain

By Lisel Mueller b. 1924

Let it come down: these thicknesses of air

have long enough walled love away from love;

stillness has hardened until words despair

of their high leaps and kisses shut themselves

back into wishing. Crippled lovers lie

against a weather which holds out on them,

waiting, awaiting some shrill sign, some cry,

some screaming cat that smells a sacrifice

and spells them thunder. Start the mumbling lips,

syllable by monotonous syllable,

that wash away the sullen griefs of love

and drown out knowledge of an ancient war—

o, ill-willed dark, give with the sound of rain,

let love be brought to ignorance again.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Prelude for String Orchestra by Gerald Finzi


By Kazim Ali b. 1971

With thick strokes of ink the sky fills with rain.

Pretending to run for cover but secretly praying for more rain. 

Over the echo of the water, I hear a voice saying my name.

No one in the city moves under the quick sightless rain.

The pages of my notebook soak, then curl. I’ve written:

“Yogis opened their mouths for hours to drink the rain.”

The sky is a bowl of dark water, rinsing your face.

The window trembles; liquid glass could shatter into rain.

I am a dark bowl, waiting to be filled.

If I open my mouth now, I could drown in the rain.

I hurry home as though someone is there waiting for me.

The night collapses into your skin. I am the rain

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Festina Lente for Strings & Harp by Arvo Part


Rain Song

By Khaled Mattawa b. 1964  

After Al-Sayyah 

             The radio blares “Dialogue of Souls,”

and the woman who hated clouds

                          watches the sky.

             Where is the sea now? she asks.

Where is it from here?

                          What is its name?—

             this rain on a morning ride to school,

winter, my seventh year,

                          my father driving

             through rain, his eyes fixed on a world

of credit and debt. On the

                          radio, devotion to

             the lifter of harm from those who despair,

             knower of secrets with the knowledge of certainty.

Not even the anguish of those

                          years, the heavy

             traffic, cold and wind could have

touched me. I was certain the palm

                          holding me would be

             struck again. Chance allows

for that and for stars to throb

                          in reachable depths.

             Filled with grief bordering happiness,

I didn’t care if I was safe,

                          whether the storm

             was over, only that it came, the slash

of lightning, the groaning sky,

                          and the storms we made,

             how rain stripped everything of urgency,

how to the lifter of harm rise

             those who despair.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Dialogue of Souls by Riyad Sunbati

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Poetry about Food (an encore program from 2014)


The Invention of Cuisine

By Carol Muske-Dukes b. 1945

Imagine for a moment

the still life of our meals,

meat followed by yellow cheese,

grapes pale against the blue armor of fish.  

Imagine a thin woman

before bread was invented,

playing a harp of wheat in the field.  

There is a stone, and behind her

the bones of the last killed,

the black bird on her shoulder

that a century later

will fly with trained and murderous intent.  

They are not very hungry

because cuisine has not yet been invented.  

Nor has falconry,

nor the science of imagination.  

All they have is the pure impulse to eat,  

which is not enough to keep them alive  

and this little moment

before the woman redeems

the sprouted seeds at her feet

and gathers the olives falling from the trees  
for her recipes.  

Imagine. Out in the fields

this very moment

they are rolling the apples to press,

the lamb turns in a regular aura of smoke.  

See, the woman looks once behind her  

before picking up the stone,

looks back once at the beasts,

the trees,  

that sky

above the white stream

where small creatures live and die  

looking upon each other

as food.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: La creation du Monde by Darius Milhaud


By Alfred Corn b. 1943 

Loaf after loaf, in several sizes,

and never does it not look fresh,

as though its insides weren’t moist

or warm crust not the kind that spices

a room with the plump aroma of toast.  

Found on the table; among shadows

next to the kitchen phone; dispatched

FedEx (without return address, though).

Someone, possibly more than one

person, loves me. Well then, who?  

Amazing that bread should be so weightless,

down-light when handled, as a me

dying to taste it takes a slice.

Which lasts just long enough to reach

my mouth, but then, at the first bite,  

Nothing! Nothing but air, thin air ....   

Oh. One more loaf of wonderbread,

only a pun for bread, seductive

visually, but you could starve.

Get rid of it, throw it in the river— 

Beyond which, grain fields. Future food for the just

and the unjust, those who love, and do not love.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Eine kleine Nachtmusik (Allegro) by W.A. Mozart

Everything Good between Men and Women

By C. D. Wright b. 1949

has been written in mud and butter

and barbecue sauce. The walls and

the floors used to be gorgeous.

The socks off-white and a near match.

The quince with fire blight

but we get two pints of jelly

in the end. Long walks strengthen

the back. You with a fever blister

and myself with a sty. Eyes

have we and we are forever prey

to each other’s teeth. The torrents

go over us. Thunder has not harmed

anyone we know. The river coursing

through us is dirty and deep. The left

hand protects the rhythm. Watch

your head. No fires should be

unattended. Especially when wind. Each

receives a free swiss army knife.

The first few tongues are clearly

preparatory. The impression

made by yours I carry to my grave. It is

just so sad so creepy so beautiful.

Bless it. We have so little time

to learn, so much... The river

courses dirty and deep. Cover the lettuce.

Call it a night. O soul. Flow on. Instead.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Twilight, from Symphonic Dances by Sergei Rachmaninov

The Battle of the Bulge

By Robert W. Service 1874–1958

This year an ocean trip I took, and as I am a Scot

And like to get my money’s worth I never missed a meal.

In spite of Neptune’s nastiness I ate an awful lot,

Yet felt as fit as if we sailed upon an even keel.

But now that I am home again I’m stricken with disgust;

How many pounds of fat I’ve gained I’d rather not divulge:

Well, anyway, I mean to take this tummy down or bust,

So here I’m suet-strafing in the

                                                      Battle of the Bulge. 

No more will sausage, bacon, eggs provide my breakfast fare;

On lobster I will never lunch, with mounds of mayonnaise.

At tea I’ll Spartanly eschew the chocolate éclair;

Roast duckling and pêche melba shall not consummate my days.

No more nocturnal ice-box raids, midnight spaghetti feeds;

On slabs of pâté de foie gras I vow I won’t indulge:

Let bran and cottage cheese suffice my gastronomic needs,

And lettuce be my ally in the

                                                      Battle of the Bulge.  

To hell with you, ignoble paunch, abhorrent in my sight!

I gaze at your rotundity, and savage is my frown.

I’ll rub you and I’ll scrub you and I’ll drub you day and night,

But by the gods of symmetry I swear I’ll get you down.

Your smooth and smug convexity, by heck! I will subdue,

And when you tucker in again with joy will I refulge;

No longer of my toes will you obstruct my downward view ...

With might and main I’ll fight to gain the

                                                      Battle of the Bulge.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: The Battle of Britain by William Walton



By William Matthews 1942–1997 

How easily happiness begins by  

dicing onions. A lump of sweet butter  

slithers and swirls across the floor  

of the sauté pan, especially if its  

errant path crosses a tiny slick

of olive oil. Then a tumble of onions.  

This could mean soup or risotto  

or chutney (from the Sanskrit

chatni, to lick). Slowly the onions  

go limp and then nacreous

and then what cookbooks call clear,  

though if they were eyes you could see  

clearly the cataracts in them.

It’s true it can make you weep

to peel them, to unfurl and to tease  

from the taut ball first the brittle,  

caramel-colored and decrepit

papery outside layer, the least  

recent the reticent onion

wrapped around its growing body,  

for there’s nothing to an onion

but skin, and it’s true you can go on  

weeping as you go on in, through  

the moist middle skins, the sweetest  

and thickest, and you can go on  

in to the core, to the bud-like,  

acrid, fibrous skins densely  

clustered there, stalky and in-

complete, and these are the most  

pungent, like the nuggets of nightmare  

and rage and murmury animal  

comfort that infant humans secrete.  

This is the best domestic perfume.  

You sit down to eat with a rumor

of onions still on your twice-washed  

hands and lift to your mouth a hint 

of a story about loam and usual  

endurance. It’s there when you clean up  

and rinse the wine glasses and make  

a joke, and you leave the minutest  

whiff of it on the light switch,

later, when you climb the stairs.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Cry Me A River, performed by Julie London

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Poetry about Music and Musicians

Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Return to Vienna
Rita Dove, 1952
Oh you men who think or say that I am malevolent, stubborn,
or misanthropic, how greatly do you wrong me....
               The Heiligenstadt Testament

Three miles from my adopted city
lies a village where I came to peace.
The world there was a calm place,
even the great Danube no more
than a pale ribbon tossed onto the landscape
by a girl’s careless hand.  Into this stillness

I had been ordered to recover. 
The hills were gold with late summer;
my rooms were two, plus a small kitchen,
situated upstairs in the back of a cottage
at the end of the Herrengasse
From my window I could see onto the courtyard
where a linden tree twined skyward —
leafy umbilicus canted toward light,
warped in the very act of yearning —
and I would feed on the sun as if that alone
would dismantle the silence around me.

At first I raged.  Then music raged in me,               
rising so swiftly I could not write quickly enough
to ease the roiling.  I would stop
to light a lamp, and whatever I’d missed —
larks flying to nest, church bells, the shepherd’s
home-toward-evening song — rushed in, and I
would rage again. 

I am by nature a conflagration;
I would rather leap
than sit and be looked at.
So when my proud city spread 
her gypsy skirts, I reentered, 
burning towards her greater, constant light.
Call me rough, ill-tempered, slovenly— I tell you,
every tenderness I have ever known
has been nothing
but thwarted violence, an ache
so permanent and deep, the lightest touch
awakens it. . . . It is impossible

to care enough.  I have returned
with a second Symphony
and 15 Piano Variations
which I’ve named Prometheus,
after the rogue Titan, the half-a-god
who knew the worst sin is to take
what cannot be given back.

I smile and bow, and the world is loud. 
And though I dare not lean in to shout
Can’t you see that I’m deaf?
I also cannot stop listening.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: "Eroica" Variations by L.van Beethoven

Interlude: Still Still

Robin Behn

Inside the hole, where it’s yellow, 
the boy has dropped a quarter 
so that the guitar rattles
when he shakes it by the neck. 
Knocks, scrapes, scars. 
So this is what music is.
The wooden body is no longer 
bigger than his body. 
The strings, which, when
he strums them, 
go on forever are forever 
wound around small pegs
shaped like the big ones 
they wrap the ropes around, 
there being an absence of
able-bodied mourners 
to lower, with the softer machines 
of their bodies, the coffin down.
It was a cold day.
The boy had not been born yet, 
but stood among us
warm in his round place. 
Then, from the distance,
the bagpiper who’d been found
in the yellow pages 
extracted the horizon note 
like a red needle from the sky.
And so it was not with nothing 
human our friend was lowered. 
This is what music is.
But how did it sound to the boy, 
the bladder of cries squeezed 
through the slit throat
when there had not been anything 
yet to cry about?
The solace of music is
not that we recognize it. 
It is that the hearing 
comes from before and is wound
around after. Between, 
our bad singing a stranger 
dozed, then bulldozed to.
At home, in its case, the guitar 
was hunkered inside the dark 
into which music goes,
and the more particular dark 
from which music comes 
was inside of it.
The sound hole swallowed and passed back 
buckets of silence
until the inner and outer dark
had the same yellow smell. 
This, while the song the boy 
would pay for waited, still still.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Cradle Song by Sergio Assad

That Music Always Round Me

Walt Whitman, 1819 - 1892

That music always round me, unceasing, unbeginning, yet long
      untaught I did not hear,
But now the chorus I hear and am elated,
A tenor, strong, ascending with power and health, with glad notes
      of daybreak I hear,
A soprano at intervals sailing buoyantly over the tops of immense
A transparent base shuddering lusciously under and through the
The triumphant tutti, the funeral wailings with sweet flutes and
      violins, all of these I fill myself with,
I hear not the volumes of sound merely, I am moved by the
      exquisite meanings,
I listen to the different voices winding in and out, striving,
      contending with fiery vehemence to excel each other in
I do not think the performers know themselves—but now I think I
      begin to know them.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: The Heavens are Telling by J. Haydn

A Violin at Dusk

Lizette Woodworth Reese

Stumble to silence, all you uneasy things, 
That pack the day with bluster and with fret.
For here is music at each window set;
Here is a cup which drips with all the springs
That ever bud a cowslip flower; a roof
To shelter till the argent weathers break;
A candle with enough of light to make
My courage bright against each dark reproof. 
A hand’s width of clear gold, unraveled out
The rosy sky, the little moon appears;
As they were splashed upon the paling red,
Vast, blurred, the village poplars lift about. 
I think of young, lost things: of lilacs; tears;
I think of an old neighbor, long since dead. 

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Passacaglia in G Minor by Heinrich Biber

The Day Duke Raised: May 24th, 1974

Quincy Troupe, 1939

For Duke Ellington
that day began with a shower
of darkness, calling lightning rains
home to stone language
of thunderclaps, shattering, the high
blue, elegance, of space & time
where a broken-down, riderless, horse
with frayed wings
rode a sheer bone, sunbeam
road, down into the clouds
spoke wheels of lightning jagged
around the hours, & spun high up
above those clouds, duke wheeled
his chariot of piano keys
his spirit, now, levitated from flesh
& hovering over the music of most high
spoke to the silence
of a griot-shaman-man
who knew the wisdom of God
at high noon, the sun cracked
through the darkness, like a rifle shot
grew a beard of clouds on its livid, bald
face, hung down, noon, sky high
pivotal time of the flood-deep hours
as duke was pivotal, being a five in the nine
numbers of numerology
as his music was one of the crossroads
a cosmic mirror of rhythmic gri-gri
so get on up & fly away duke, bebop
slant & fade on in, strut, dance swing, riff
& float & stroke those tickling, gri-gri keys
those satin ladies taking the A train  up
to harlem, those gri-gri keys 
of birmingham, breakdown
sophisticated ladies, mood indigo
get on up & strut across, gri-gri
raise on up, your band’s waiting
thunderclapping music, somersaulting
clouds, racing across the deep, blue wisdom
of God, listen, it is time for your intro, duke
into that other place, where the all-time great
band is waiting for your intro, duke
it is time for the Sacred Concert, duke
it is time to make the music of God, duke
we are listening for your intro, duke
so let the sacred music, begin

 RELFECTIVE MUSIC: Blues To Be There by Duke Ellington