GALLERY (IN) CONCERT

Kandinsky, Braque, Matisse and Degas
all stand patiently in the hall
wondering if anyone, this night,
will notice them as they always
seem to do, while Motherwell and Pollack
lurk around the corner, feigning
indifference, dreading being ignored.
The sound check is long ago complete
and the three men sit in the cafe
lost in the crowd, sipping wine,
a beer, a soda as the last of the meals
are consumed and people file out
and up the stairs to the auditorium.
Picasso stares up in wonder
as the piano comes to life,
carrying us all on a wave
that undulates across the strings.
The bassist crosses the bridge,
darts back, and we stare slack-jawed
as his fingers defy our eyes
and expectations. The drummer
brushes off our questions and solos,
content to carry the music
lightly in his hands as Calder
is left to twist gently in the breeze.

CZERNY IN HELL

Mrs. Schwarting lived in a small cottage.
Mrs. Schwarting taught piano in her living room.
Mrs. Schwarting had no first name, even
checks were to be made payable to “Mrs. Schwarting.”
Mrs. Schwarting grew suddenly old, some said,
to fully fit into her name, no one could
remember her ever being young.
Mrs. Schwarting said I must always find Middle C,
that everything starts there.
Mrs. Schwarting was not pleased when I said
that Middle C was key number 40 on my piano
of the 88 that I carefully counted,
and there was no middle key, only
a gap between E4 and F4.
Mrs. Schwarting looked at me sternly
and ended my lesson early that day.
Mrs. Schwarting was a great teacher.
I think of her each time I sit down
and place the djembe between my knees.

THE MUSIC OF SPRING

The music hides, just out of sight,
beyond the edge of hearing.
We assume it must be something by Mozart
or at least Bach, a tocatta and fugue,
swallowed by the trees, the cardinal singing
faintly, mirroring the tune,
but there is only the wind
meandering throught the pines
which have cast off the weight
of winter and patiently await
the fullness of spring, swaying
and singing a song to the night.

FERRYMAN

He comes to me
in the dead hour of night
the old shriveled man
poling his poor ferry
across the river of my dreams.
He comes when
the moon has fled
and the stars fall mute
and he beckons me
holding out the copper coins
stating his fare.

He comes to me, beckoning,
and for his fare
I show him
the butterfly perched
on the window box
his wings folded
darkly iridescent
a tissue paper opal
awaiting the first sun.

He comes to me, beckoning
and for his fare
I hold the rose
beneath his nose letting
the carmine velvet petals
caress his nostrils
as he smells the luscious
aroma that bathes his face.

He comes to me, beckoning,
and for his fare
I pass to him
the crystal goblet
of the sauterne
and he sips
as it washes over
his tongue, tasting
of honey and fruit.

He comes to me, beckoning,
and for his fare
I give him the voice
of Wolfgang’s strings
of Johann’s harp
of Ludwig’s piano
of Callas, Pavarotti,
the symphony of the rain forest
the sonata of the surf.

He comes to me, beckoning,
and for his fare
I give him a picture
of the young child tugging
my hand, as he pulls me
to see something marvelous
he has just discovered,
his laughter deafening.

He comes to me
in the dead hour of night
the old shriveled man
poling his poor ferry
across the river of my dreams.
Each time he retreats,
the fragile boat empty
his fare uncollected.

BIG ISLAND

It is his hands you notice first –
dark fingers bent and gnarled,
several banded in silver,
knuckles scratched by the cat
curled at his feet, the tip
of his index finger sacrificed
to a distraction and the saw,
untrimmed nails, rough, ragged
a torn cuticle, liver spot rubbed raw.
The fingers curl gently around the worn
maple handle of the knife,
which flicks away shards of wood.
He leans into each down stroke
pulling gently back, the other hand
wrapped tightly around
the debarked Koa wood.
Over his shoulder, Mauna Loa
rises, a peacock feathered rainbow
from the lava shore, and still
he flicks the knife across the wood
rocking gently in the old bentwood
chair, its caning torn, split.
I ask him quietly, “Do the shavings
that leave your knife know why
they have been sacrificed?”
He stares at the wood, at the pile
of shavings around his feet.
He looks up slowly his bronzed skin
burnished in sweat, glowing
in the Kona sun, “Bruddah, da whale
sings the whole ocean in a single song.”

VERITAS

It is the promise of the grape
that lures us, that allows us
to imagine the glass stained purple,
or a deep golden yellow,
an alluring pink.
It may be accompanied by words
that suggest the approach
of a moment not to be forgotten,
deep, vibrant, tobacco, stone fruit,
a veritable catalog to entice us,
though meaning what we are not certain.
It is only on the tongue
that the grapes speak, and do so
in a voice that defies anything
as simple as language, for wine
sings to an instrument all its own.