Saturday, September 17, 2016

Ode to Music


1. SONNET by Elizabeth Bishop

I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling finger-tips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!

There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Oh! quand je dors by Franz Liszt


Don't worry about saving these songs!
And if one of our instruments breaks,
it doesn't matter.

We have fallen into the place
where everything is music.

The strumming and the flute notes
rise into the atmosphere,
and even if the whole world's harp
should burn up, there will still be
hidden instruments playing.

So the candle flickers and goes out.
We have a piece of flint, and a spark.

This singing art is sea foam.
The graceful movements come from a pearl
somewhere on the ocean floor.

Poems reach up like spindrift and the edge
of driftwood along the beach, wanting!

They derive
from a slow and powerful root
that we can't see.

Stop the words now.
Open the window in the center of your chest,
and let the spirits fly in and out.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Persian recorder and guitar

3. THE EBONY CHICKERING by Dorianne Laux

My mother cooked with lard she kept
In coffee cans beneath the kitchen sink.
Bean-colored linoleum ticked under her flats
as she wore a path from stove to countertop.
Eggs cracked against the lips of smooth
ceramic bowls she beat muffins in,
boxed cakes and cookie dough.
It was the afternoons she worked toward,
the smell of onions scrubbed from her hands,
when she would fold her flowered apron
and feed it through the sticky refrigerator
handle, adjust the spongy curlers on her head
and wrap a loud Hawaiian scarf into a tired knot
around them as she walked toward her piano,
the one thing my father had given her that she loved.

I can still see each gold letter engraved
on the polished lid she lifted and slid
into the piano’s dark body, the hidden hammers
trembling like a muffled word,
the scribbled sheets, her rough hands poised
above the keys as she began her daily practice.
Words like arpeggio sparkled through my childhood,
her fingers sliding from the black bar of a sharp
to the white of a common note. “This is Bach,”
she would instruct us, the tail of his name hissing
like a cat. “And Chopin,” she said, “was French,
like us,” pointing to the sheet music. “Listen.
Don’t let the letters fool you. It’s best
to always trust your ear.”

She played parts of fugues and lost concertos,
played hard as we kicked each other on the couch,
while the meat burned and the wet wash wrinkled
in the basket, played Beethoven as if she understood
the caged world of the deaf, his terrible music
pounding its way through the fence slats
and the screened doors of the cul-de-sac, the yards
where other mothers hung clothes on a wire, bent
to weeds, swept the driveways clean.
Those were the years she taught us how to make
quick easy meals, accept the embarrassment
of a messy house, safety pins and rick-rack
hanging from the hem of her dress.
But I knew the other kids didn’t own words
like fortissimo and mordant, treble clef
and trill, or have a mother quite as elegant
as mine when she sat at the piano,
playing like she was famous,
so that when the Sparklets man arrived
to fill our water cooler every week
he would lean against the doorjamb and wait
for her to finish, glossy-eyed
as he listened, secretly touching the tips
of his fingers to the tips of her fingers
as he bowed, and she slipped him the check.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Prelude and Fugue in D, by J.S. Bach

4. THE GUITAR by Federico Garcia Lorca

The weeping of the guitar
The goblets of dawn
are smashed.
The weeping of the guitar
to silence it.
to silence it.
It weeps monotonously
as water weeps
as the wind weeps
over snowfields.
to silence it.
It weeps for distant
Hot southern sands
yearning for white camellias.
Weeps arrow without target
evening without morning
and the first dead bird
on the branch.
Oh, guitar!
Heart mortally wounded
by five swords.

by Francisco Tarrega

5. MUSIC by Charles Baudelaire

Music, like an ocean, often carries me away!
Through the ether far,
or under a canopy of mist, I set sail
for my pale star.
Breasting the waves, my lungs swollen
like a ship’s canvas,
night veils from me the long rollers, 
I ride their backs:
I sense all a suffering vessel’s passions
vibrating within me:
while fair winds or the storm’s convulsions
on the immense deep
cradle me. Or else flat calm, vast mirror there
of my despair! 

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: La Mer by Claude Debussy


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