making music

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.



One Single Sense

I would miss taste, it’s true,
but by then I will have had my fill
of delicacies, and will eat plain stew.

The touch of a lover, the thrill,
that would be hard to kiss goodbye.
But at least I will not feel winter’s chill.

Scents, however, are the means whereby
memory’s pathways collide and collude.
NB: write poems of remembrance, should that sense die.

Now sight: think of all the beauty you’ve viewed
and assemble a mental scrapbook of sorts.
Not ideal, but a comfort in your solitude.

Ah! but hearing. Mostly, music exhorts
me to insist: I cannot live without that gift,
which all other senses merely support.


When I learned to really swim

Thank you, stranger lady swimming in the next lane.

I was paddling along, trying to last
two strokes, or three
on a breath,
Wearing myself out,

I watched you for a while,
you were not splashing, not
swimming terribly fast.
But skimming along
and breathing every
four strokes.

I thought,

“My singer’s lungs should be able to
hold a note for four measures,
and have a little left at the end.”

And that is when I really learned to swim,
to feel
the oxygen in my veins
the strong blood in my heart
rhythmic flutter of feet
percussion of hands
and the notes the bubbles sing
as I swim my song.

The Bachelor Mockingbird

I am not sure what the ladies don’t see in him.

Do their ears hear a dissonance, or a lacuna in his melodic line
that my human hearing does not register?

He smiths his song day and night,
and weehours morning as well,
driven, sleep-deprived.

(Is his prospective mate a night-owl, too, dawdling at dawn
with her feathers or just chatting with friends?)

His inexhaustible joy and longing
has infected the neighborhood
with a kind of pleasant unease.

When he falls silent
Should we be happy?
Perhaps his top-40 has drawn a mate!

Then he begins anew,
and we smile sadly
pleased to have our work and play accompanied
by his hopeful soundtrack.

Courtesy Cornell Ornithology Lab

Mockingbird Display, photo and birdsong courtesy Cornell Ornithology Lab

purest tone

Ting the little fork, hold against the bone of tooth,
and your brain, chest, and gut will fill with sound
(but not song, not yet).

A is the true from which all other notes are measured.

While the F-sharp is easy to find, the D-sharp proves elusive,
and I cannot remember what is perfect,
what is diminished,
what is augmented.

For all its purity, this A
is singularly unhelpful today.