BLESSING

There is a blessing in silence
that we so often deny ourselves,
unaware that it lies just beyond
the noise of our minds and lives.
We crave it, beg for it, and
hearing the beggar, shun him
for the noise he carries
like the skin he cannot molt.
Beethoven understood silence
in his later years and
filled with a music
none of us will pause to hear.

SOUL MUSIC

The first time I heard Mozart,
I swore I was in a biblical garden
and I was content to sit and listen for eternity.
The serpent came along, as they do in such gardens,
as I recall, with the face of Beethoven, though now
I am convinced it was just Mahler trying to pass.
I still stop and eat from the fruit of Mozart on occasion,
but once the food was there for the taking, but
now it has to be purchased, and even here
you pay and never know until you bite into it
just how fresh and juicy it might be.
And lately, so much has been overpowering
that I cannot digest it,
and my growing deafness makes
each purchase agonizing, even though
I know if I went without, I
wouldn’t starve, save for my soul.

LUDWIG

When I was twelve, I think,
maybe in the last days of eleven,
and in my third year of piano lessons
my teacher, Mrs. Schwarting, she
of no first name, and a steady hand
that could squeeze the muscle
of my shoulder, a taloned metronome,
gave me a small plastic bust
of Beethoven, told me to place it
on the piano, so that he could watch
my daily practice and insure
my eyes were on him, not the keys.
Ludwig is long gone, lost
in one of our moves, one less
gatherer of the dust of other activities.
Now, sitting on the bench,
flexing fingers demanding independence
I realize that his smile was one
of age, thankful for his deafness.


Previously published in Fox Cry Review, Vol. 23, 1997 and in PIF Magazine, Vol. 20, 1999.

FUGUE

The name on the door
says Richard Strauss
though the lack of music
emanating from within the room
suggests he may be napping
or off doing something more important
than entertaining those of us
out in the hall of the nursing home.
It’s no surprise, he’d be
in a home now, more odd that
he isn’t long dead, but music
has a life of its own, so too musicians.
Johann Bach and I discussed this
just other night, though he
said he has little use
for so much of today’s music,
“It all went to Hades after Wolfgang,
Ludwig and Johannes, but
what do I know, since I am now
just one more of the ancients.”
Johann added, “I’d like to stay
and talk, but when you
are my age, well, tempus fugit,
and I must, therefore, bid you farewell.”
I slid quickly back into
the fugue state of my dreams.

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.