creative process

The Ninth

This kiss for the whole wide world, he wrote,
but without an embrace of his own
to quiet the klaxons between his useless ears,
he continued conducting to a silent hall.

Tortured and divine, and in the end merely mortal,
his unhappiness and hopefulness is eternal.

Embrace each other now, you millions.

ninth

 

Hum

bee

When is a sound not a sound,
but a feeling?
When is a presence so still,
yet quivering with purpose?

I sat in a humming place,
only sensing
the flight and landing of the bees.

Between my ears, so much music
is battling for real estate —
so I invited the bees to fill the space
with their neutral, universal tone.

They ignore me
and simply do what they do;
I am pleasantly null
in their presence,

cleansed and ready
to attend to the next flower.

Choir Loft

Belinda hoped tonight would be a rehearsal where she could fade to the back row. Always having been one of the “good” ones in other choirs, she was now surrounded by disconcertingly talented singers. Most of them 20 years her junior. She was now self-conscious about her vibrato, and ruefully remembered how she and fellow youthful soprani had snarkily imitated older singers’ wide, wavering vibratos. Chickens, meet roost.

The audition had gone well (feeling a little rusty, she had chosen an Italian art song that the accompanist could probably have played blind drunk with one hand), and Belinda went into the first rehearsals feeling pretty confident. But the music the conductor selected made her feel uneasy and off-balance. Close, dissonant harmonies; odd meters; foreign vocal techniques that left her feeling old, out of touch. Consequently, she had been making up excuses to avoid practicing. And when she did practice, she made so many mistakes! And why were there so damn many sustained high A’s? A few years ago, she wouldn’t have blinked. Perhaps she should have tried out as an alto, but she had always had trouble reading inner voice parts. Just couldn’t really hear it, you know?

So Belinda came to rehearsal feeling sickly, unprepared. A cold terror seized her gut when the section leader said they were going to do quartets this evening. Her only hope was that there were so many soprani, they would probably have to double up; she could pair up with one of the confident young girls, and follow her lead. Or she could duck out to the ladies when it was coming up to her row.

She was so distracted that she barely noticed the first couple of quartets singing one of the challenging passages in an impossibly difficult piece. Everyone clapped enthusiastically, gave critiques, praised the singers. It is true, they were not perfect, but they gave clear evidence of having practiced the passage. Belinda had barely looked at it, let alone worked out the alternating meter and (let’s face it) downright unpleasant harmonies.

Glancing over a few seats, she locked eyes with a woman of roughly her own age, who had been smiling and listening. She nodded, Belinda thought kindly, and seemed relaxed and unworried, tapping her foot lightly and breathing with the singers.

Suddenly, it occurred to Belinda: she had years, years of experience behind her. She had sung masses and requiems and cantatas of equal or surpassing difficulty. She had ALWAYS loved to sight-read! That’s all she needed to do, really, both listen closely to and shut out the other parts, simultaneously. That was what she had learned to do all these years.

All of sudden, she was up. Deep breath. Go.

blue

seep
I made a brief list of sounds along this path,
the least of which is the crickle the dirt makes
as the sun lands on it.

There are tiny birds who flickle
from branch to branch saying “Psst! Psst!”
and teasingly disappear from sight.

You’ll miss the slow beewing hum
if you walk too fast or heavily.

The list of sounds I love has grown shorter
as my list of years accomplished grows.

Silence tops the list,
followed in no particular order by
susurrations of wind
and the chimes and trees it disturbs,
water in tricklets or waves,
voices twined in sacred and vulgar song.

I sometimes wish for synesthesia
so I could understand if my new fondness for the color blue
is because it sounds like all those things.

orchid

IMG_0991

“Someday you will own a houseplant you cannot  kill.”

It is too soon to say,
but last year
someone gave me a thorny, vicious SOB of a plant.

It thrives near my workspace
and demands very little of me.

So-called “indirect sunlight” suits it.
Infrequent watering doesn’t faze it.

I have placed the more delicate orchid nearby
in hopes they will make a pact
to shame me into caring for them.

And it is thus I am childless and dogless
by choice, not accident.