Friday, January 25, 2019

Music when Soft Voices Die (January 25, 2019)

My Mother's Music
By Emilie Buchwald

In the evenings of my childhood,
when I went to bed,
music washed into the cove of my room,
my door open to a slice of light.

I felt a melancholy I couldn't have named,
a longing for what I couldn't yet have said
or understood but still
knew was longing,
knew was sadness
untouched by time.

the music was a rippling stream
of clear water rushing
over a bed of river stones
caught in sunlight.

And many nights
I crept from bed
to watch her
swaying where she sat
overtaken by the tide,
her arms rowing the music
out of the piano.

Music when Soft Voices Die (To --)

Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory—
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heaped for the belov├Ęd's bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.

In the House of the Voice of Maria Callas

In the house of the voice of Maria Callas
We hear the baby’s cries, and the after-supper
Rattle of silverware, and three clocks ticking
To different tunes, and ripe plums
Sleeping in their chipped bowl, and traffic sounds
Dissecting the avenues outside.   We hear, like water
Pouring over time itself, the pure distillate arias
Of the numerous pampered queens who have reigned,
And the working girls who have suffered
The envious knives, and the breathless brides
With their horned helmets who have fallen in love
And gone crazy or fallen in love and died
On the grand stage at their appointed moments—
Who will sing of them now?   Maria Callas is dead,
Although the full lips and the slanting eyes
And flared nostrils of her voice resurrect
Dramas we are able to imagine in this parlor
On evenings like this one, adding some color,
Adding some order.   Of whom it was said:
She could imagine almost anything and give voice to it.



Someone says Tristan
& Isolde, the shared cup
& broken vows binding them,
& someone else says Romeo
& Juliet, a lyre & Jew’s harp
sighing a forbidden oath,
but I say a midnight horn
& a voice with a moody angel
inside, the two married rib
to rib, note for note. Of course,
I am thinking of those Tuesdays
or Thursdays at Billy Berg’s
in LA when Lana Turner would say,
“Please sing ‘Strange Fruit’
for me,” & then her dancing
nightlong with Mel Torme,
as if she knew what it took
to make brass & flesh say yes
beneath the clandestine stars
& a spinning that is so fast
we can’t feel the planet moving.
Is this why some of us fall
in & out of love? Did Lady Day
& Prez ever hold each other
& plead to those notorious gods?
I don’t know. But I do know
even if a horn & voice plumb
the unknown, what remains unsaid
coalesces around an old blues
& begs with a hawk’s yellow eyes.

A Song for St. Cecilia's Day, 1687


Stanza 2
What passion cannot music raise and quell!
When Jubal struck the corded shell,
His list'ning brethren stood around
And wond'ring, on their faces fell
To worship that celestial sound:
Less than a god they thought there could not dwell
Within the hollow of that shell
That spoke so sweetly and so well.
What passion cannot music raise and quell!

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