Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Faces at Braga, by David Whyte

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Laudate Dominum
from Vesperae solenne de confessore KV 339
with Lucia Popp

In monastery darkness
by the light of one flashlight
the old shrine room waits in silence

While above the door
we see the terrible figure,
fierce eyes demanding, "Will you step through?"

And the old monk leads us,
bent back nudging blackness
prayer beads in the hand that beckons.

We light the butter lamps
and bow, eyes blinking in the
pungent smoke, look up without a word,

see faces in meditation,
a hundred faces carved above,
eye lines wrinkled in the hand held light.

Such love in solid wood!
Taken from the hillsides and carved in silence
they have the vibrant stillness of those who made them.

Engulfed by the past
they have been neglected, but through
smoke and darkness they are like the flowers

we have seen growing
through the dust of eroded slopes,
then slowly opening faces turned toward the mountain.

Carved in devotion
their eyes have softened through age
and their mouths curve through delight of the carvers hand.

If only our own faces
would allow the invisible carver's hand
to bring the deep grain of love to the surface.

If only we knew
as the carver knew, how the flaws
in the wood led his searching chisel to the very core,

we would smile, too
and not need faces immobilized
by fear and the weight of things undone.

When we fight with our failing
we ignore the entrance to the shrine itself
and wrestle with the guardian, fierce figure on the side of good.

And as we fight
our eyes are hooded with grief
and our mouths are dry with pain.

If only we could give ourselves
to the blows of the carvers hands,
the lines in our faces would be the trace lines of rivers

feeding the sea
where voices meet, praising the features
of the mountain and the cloud and the sky.

Our faces would fall away
until we, growing younger toward death
every day, would gather all our flaws in celebration

to merge with them perfectly,
impossibly, wedded to our essence,
full of silence from the carver's hands.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Postcard From Home, by Al Zolynas

W. A. Mozart - Non Più Di Fiori, La Clemenza di Tito
with Lucia Popp

Sitting on the deck, bare feet
on the railing, I watch and listen to
this day spilling out its myriad flow of details, one
after another, one on top of another, seamlessly,
with no apologies, not the slightest backing off:
two ruby-throated humming birds
drinking their sugar water, distant dogs
barking, the sudden shriek
of wood surrendering to a neighbor's power saw,
those boulders poking out of the hillside, another subdivision
materializing on the stripped land across the valley.
Each detail says "This!"
and has always and ever only said "This!"
Wish I were here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Whistle, by Kathy Mangan

Ciprian Porumbescu - Ballad for Violin and Piano

You could whistle me home from anywhere
in the neighborhood; avenues away,
I’d pick out your clear, alternating pair
of notes, the signal to quit my child’s play
and run back to our house for supper,
or a Saturday trip to the hardware store.
Unthrottled, wavering in the upper
reaches, your trilled summons traveled farther
than our few blocks. I’ve learned too, how your heart’s
radius extends, though its beat
has stopped. Still, some days a sudden fear darts
through me, whether it’s my own city street
I hurry across, or at a corner in an unknown
town: the high, vacant air arrests me—where’s home?

from Poetry Foundation

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The insidious sound of the violin

A divinely charmed


.......................................Sent to coil

......................................................around heart

.......................................................................and soul

..................................................................................And leave

................................................................twin wounds


.....................................................................e and longing


.......................That join
..............................................the mighty

.......................................................................white river

..................n .....................................................................................e
..........................i .......................................................................h
...................................t ....................................................c
............................................s ................................r

........................................................between stars

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Finding What You Didn't Lose, by John Fox

for M.

Edvard Grieg - Piano Concerto in A minor, Op.16, III

When someone deeply listens to you
it is like holding out a dented cup
you've had since childhood
and watching it fill up with
cold, fresh water.
When it balances on top of the brim,
you are understood.
When it overflows and touches your skin,
you are loved.
When someone deeply listens to you,
the room where you stay
starts a new life
and the place where you wrote
your first poem
begins to glow in your mind's eye.
It is as if gold has been discovered!
When someone deeply listens to you,
your bare feet are on the earth
and a beloved land that seemed distant
is now at home within you.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dangerous Prayers, by Regina Sara Ryan

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - Piano Concerto No. 1, III 

with Artur Rubinstein

Deliver us, O Truth, O Love, from quiet prayer
from polite and politically correct language,
from appropriate gesture and form
and whatever else we think we must put forth to invoke
or to praise You.

Let us instead pray dangerously –
wantonly, lustily, passionately.
Let us demand with every ounce of our strength,
let us storm the gates of heaven, let us shake up ourselves
and our plaster saints from the sleep of years.

Let us pray dangerously.
Let us throw ourselves from the top of the tower,
let us risk a descent to the darkest region of the abyss,
let us put our head in the lion’s mouth
and direct our feet to the entrance of the dragon’s cave.

Let us pray dangerously.
Let us not hold back a little portion,
dealing out our lives–our precious minutes and our energies–like some efficient accountant.
Let us rather pray dangerously — unsafe, profligate, wasteful!

Let us ask for nothing less than the Infinite to ravage us.
Let us ask for nothing less than annihilation in the
Fires of Love.

Let us not pray in holy half-measures nor walk
the middle path
for too long,
but pray madly, foolishly.
Let us be too ecstatic,
let us be too overwhelmed with sorrow and remorse,
let us be undone, and dismembered…and gladly.

Left to our own devices, ah what structures of deceit
we have created;
what battlements erected, what labyrinths woven,
what traps set for ourselves, and then
fallen into. Enough.

Let us pray dangerously — hot prayer, wet prayer, fierce prayer,
fiery prayer, improper prayer,
exuberant prayer, drunken and completely unrealistic prayer.

Let us say Yes, again and again and again.
and Yes some more.
Let us pray dangerously,

the most dangerous prayer is YES.

thank you Elaine for the poem

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Shell, by David Whyte

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
Allegro moderato part I, with Itzhak Perlman

An open sandy shell
on the beach
empty but beautiful
like a memory
of a protected previous self.
The most difficult griefs
ones in which
we slowly open
to a larger sea, a grander
sweep that washes
all our elements apart.

So strange the way
we are larger
in grief
than we imagined
we deserved or could claim
and when loss floods
into us
like the long darkness it is
and the old nurtured hope
is drowned again
even stranger then
at the edge of the sea
to feel the hand of the wind
laid on our shoulder
reminding us
how death grants
a fierce and fallen freedom
away from the prison
of a constant
and continued presence,
how in the end
those who have left us
might no longer need us
with all our tears
and our much needed
measures of loss
and that their own death
is as personal
and private
as that life of theirs
which you never really knew,
and another disturbing thing,
that exultation
is possible
without them.

And they for themselves
in fact
are glad to have let go
of all the stasis
and the enclosure
and the need for them to live
like some prisoner
that you only wanted
to remain incurious
and happy in your love
never looking for the key
never wanting to
turn the lock and walk
like the wind
unneedful of you,

from Everything is Waiting for You

Allegro moderato part II

Monday, September 28, 2009

All The Hemispheres, by Hafiz

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake based on Tchaikovsky

Leave the familiar for a while.
Let your senses and bodies stretch out

Like a welcomed season
Onto the meadows and shores and hills.

Open up to the Roof.
Make a new water-mark on your excitement
And love.

Like a blooming night flower,
Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness
And giving
Upon our intimate assembly.

Change rooms in your mind for a day.

All the hemispheres in existence
Lie beside an equator
In your heart.

Greet Yourself
In your thousand other forms
As you mount the hidden tide and travel
Back home.

All the hemispheres in heaven
Are sitting around a fire

While stitching themselves together
Into the Great Circle inside of

from The Subject Tonight is Love - versions of Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Truth Serum, by Naomi Shihab Nye

Frédéric Chopin – Prelude Op. 28, No. 15 (Raindrop Prelude)

We made it from the ground-up corn in the old back pasture.
Pinched a scent of night jasmine billowing off the fence,
popped it right in.
That frog song wanting nothing but echo?
We used that.
Stirred it widely. Noticed the clouds while stirring.
Called upon our ancient great aunts and their long slow eyes
of summer. Dropped in their names.
Added a mint leaf now and then
to hearten the broth. Added a note of cheer and worry.
Orange butterfly between the claps of thunder?
Perfect. And once we had it,
had smelled and tasted the fragrant syrup,
placing the pan on a back burner for keeping,
the sorrow lifted in small ways.
We boiled down the lies in another pan till they disappeared.
We washed that pan.

thank you vv

Monday, September 14, 2009

Having Come This Far, by James Broughton

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Symphony No. 40, I

I've been through what my through was to be
I did what I could and couldn't
I was never sure how I would get there

I nourished an ardor for thresholds
for stepping stones and for ladders
I discovered detour and ditch

I swam in the high tides of greed
I built sandcastles to house my dreams
I survived the sunburns of love

No longer do I hunt for targets
I've climbed all the summits I need to
and I've eaten my share of lotus

Now I give praise and thanks
for what could not be avoided
and for every foolhardy choice

I cherish my wounds and their cures
and the sweet enervations of bliss
My book is an open life

I wave goodbye to the absolutes
and send my regards to infinity
I'd rather be blithe than correct

Until something transcendent turns up
I splash in my poetry puddle
and try to keep God amused.

from Panhala

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Talking to Grief, by Denise Levertov

Gabriel Fauré - Piano Trio in D minor Op. 120, II
with the BannerArts Trio

Ah, Grief, I should not treat you
like a homeless dog
who comes to the back door
for a crust, for a meatless bone.
I should trust you.

I should coax you
into the house and give you
your own corner,
a worn mat to lie on,
your own water dish.

You think I don't know you've been living
under my porch.
You long for your real place to be readied
before winter comes. You need
your name,
your collar and tag. You need
the right to warn off intruders,
to consider
my house your own
and me your person
and yourself
my own dog.

vv, thank you

Saturday, September 5, 2009

If hands could free you, heart, by Philip Larkin

Francis Poulenc - Improvisations No. 7 in C major
with Pascal Rogé

If hands could free you, heart,
...Where would you fly?
Far, beyond every part
Of earth this running sky
Makes desolate? Would you cross
City and hill and sea,
...If hands could set you free?

I would not lift the latch;
...For I could run
Through fields, pit-valleys, catch
All beauty under the sun--
Still end in loss:
I should find no bent arm, no bed
...To rest my head.

thank you Roxana for the poem
thank you vv for the music

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

It is not a word, by Sara Teasdale

George Enescu - Balada pentru vioara op. 4A

It is not a word spoken,
Few words are said;
Nor even a look of the eyes
Nor a bend of the head,

But only a hush of the heart
That has too much to keep,
Only memories waking
That sleep so light a sleep.


Sunday, August 30, 2009


Franz Schubert - Wasserflut, Die Winterreise
with Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake

Liquid lapis lazuli, the night
knits all the gold spirit threads
on which your abandoned beads
blink planetary solitudes.

If you pour yourself into her net
she'll cast you to beyond the seas
and teach you to offer your necklace
as pigment for the most holy hem.

But you're distracted by the skyline
and forget it's not for concrete
you can't see the blue-violet depths
that call to the gulls in your soul.

You keep seeing cockroaches skitter,
always at the edge of your sight,
and your eyes get tired of searching
for what they don't want to find.

Surrender this need, and like a bead
it will glide and show you the thread
tied tight to the hook in your heart
and pulled by the most loving hand.

thank you vv for the music response

Friday, August 21, 2009

Talk with Me

This dawn breeze I have given you,
don't corral and nail it above
ocean currents or caribou trail
maps: each with its color pin,
quickly to find
as your mind travels tomorrows.

These raindrops I have given you,
don't splinter and channel
into speakers and sprinklers:
all encouragements to linger
and weigh choices
in the fresh produce aisle.

Is it because I am God
that you think I have no need
of tenderness?

Felix Mendelssohn - Allegro, Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64
with Michael Rabin (1957)

poem title and text in italics from He and I by Gabrielle Bossis

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wants, by Philip Larkin

György Ligeti - Atmosphères

Beyond all this, the wish to be alone:
However the sky grows dark with invitation-cards
However we follow the printed directions of sex
However the family is photographed under the flagstaff -
Beyond all this, the wish to be alone.

Beneath it all, desire of oblivion runs:
Despite the artful tensions of the calendar,
The life insurance, the tabled fertility rites,
The costly aversion of the eyes from death -
Beneath it all, desire of oblivion runs.

from 20th Century Poetry & Poetics (Oxford University Press, 1969)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The limits undone, by Neile Graham

Giuseppe Verdi - Kyrie Eleison, Requiem Aeternam
NBC Symphony Orchestra, Arturo Toscanini conductor (1940)

I call it sorrow that makes me leave
this house; unfolding the cloth that covers
the windows, I am closing the eyes of the dead.
It's grey, raining outside and it suits me well,
pulling the door to, turning the key in the familiar
lock one last time.
...............................This time I forgot to say
goodbye to each room, like I did as a child,
so I step through the soggy leaves and circle
the house trying to make it whole.

If I knew the words to make the sort
of spell this needs I would say them. Instead I walk
to the car, try not to look back.

Suddenly I'm miles away in the rain
on the highway and can't remember how
I got this far; the windshield wipers
scrape in front of my eyes and I'm driving inland -
away from the land's end,
from the house at the edge of it.

If I stare out the attic window at the night sea
I cannot quite make out where shore ends
and ocean begins: the limits of everything
undone in the darkness just as on the highway
grey road dissolves to grey sky.

I am leaving nothing, take the weight of my life
down this road, though I thought I had left
it behind. Sorrow, like darkness, like rain,
blurs all borders and everything comes flooding in -

I greet each room like a child.

from Spells for clear vision (Brick Books, 1994)
thank you Prospero for the music

to your knife


....................i am





Antonio Vivaldi - Gloria in Excelsis Deo

Friday, August 14, 2009

Invincible recluse (Solitario invencible), by Vicente Huidobro

Frédéric Chopin - Nocturne Op. 27 No. 2with Dinu Lipatti, live recording

Like a basket of bitterness
Filled with silence and light
Frozen asleep
You leave and return to yourself
You laugh at your own dream
Yet you sigh shivering poems
And convince yourself of some hope

Absence, the hunger of keeping silent
Of no longer emitting so many hypotheses
Of closing the talkative wounds
You surrender to a special anxiety
Like from snow and fire
You want to turn your eyes to life
To swallow the entire universe
Those fields of stars
They fly away from your hand after the catastrophe
When the perfume of carnations
Spins around your axis

transl. from Spanish by Sherman Souther
in Many Mountains Moving, vol. v, no.1
thank you vv for the music

Friday, August 7, 2009

After great pain, a formal feeling comes, by Emily Dickinson

Giuseppe Verdi - Lacrymosa dies illa, Messa da Requiem
Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Agnes Baltsa, José Carreras, José Van Dam; Wiener Philharmoniker
Balgarska Chorova Kapela Svetoslav Obretenov and Herbert von Karajan

After great pain, a formal feeling comes --
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs
The stiff Heart questions, was it He, that bore,
And Yesterday, or Centuries before?

The Feet, mechanical, go round --
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought --
A Wooden way
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone --

This is the Hour of Lead --
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow --
First -- Chill -- then Stupor -- then the letting go --

Giuseppe Verdi - Lux aeterna, Messa da Requiem

poem from
for music info see resonances

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Poem, by Sue Sinclair

Johannes Brahms - Intermezzo in E Flat Major Op. 117-1
with Julius Katchen

The poem wants to be an extra bone
in the body. Lonely,
it wants the day to come back for it:
a jacket left at the coat check,
the dance floor deserted.

There is no wisdom in the poem,
but it repeats its small life as many times
as we ask. The poem is everybody's
mother, remembering what can't be found,
remembering who you are, remembering
what hasn't even happened yet.

Mortal Arguments (Brick Books, 2003)
thank you vv for this post

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gulls, by Helen Bascand

George Enescu - Romanian Rhapsody

I can't forget
how I told you they were there
outside your window -

two of them
because your soul seemed heavy
tied to your hospital bed -

I was drifting
looking away from your face
and I mentioned

how blue was this sky. I told you
the gulls were white and bewitching

and they made flying look

from Into the Vanishing Point (Steele Roberts, 2007)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Your Mother and My Mother, by Hafiz

Frédéric Chopin - Nocturne Op.9 No.2

Fear is the cheapest room in the house.
I would like to see you living
In better conditions,

For your mother and my mother
Were friends.

I know the Innkeeper
In this part of the universe.
Get some rest tonight,
Come to my verse again tomorrow.
We'll go speak to the Friend together.

I should not make any promises right now,
But I know if you
Somewhere in this world -
Something good will happen.

God wants to see
More love and playfulness in your eyes
For that is your greatest witness to Him.

Your soul and my soul
Once sat together in the Beloved's womb
Playing footsie.

Your heart and my heart
Are very, very old

transl. by Daniel Ladinsky
from The Gift: Poems by Hafiz, the Great Sufi Master

Friday, July 24, 2009

Brilliant Sky, by Jean Joubert

Antonio Vivaldi - Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Gloria (Rv 589)

Never between the branches has the sky
burned with such brilliance, as if
it were offering all of its light to me,
to say – what? what urgent mystery
strains at that transparent mouth?
No leaf, no rustle . . . It's in winter,
in cold emptiness and silence, that the air
suddenly arches itself like this into infinity,
and glitters.

This evening, far from here,
a friend is entering his death,
he knows it, he walks
under bare trees alone,
perhaps for the last time. So much love,
so much struggle, spent and worn thin.
But when he looks up, suddenly the sky
is arrayed in this same vertiginous clarity.

Trans. by Denise Levertov, In
The Gift of Tongues, ed. by Sam Hamill

From Panhala yahoo group

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A woman dead in her forties, by Adrienne Rich

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - Piano Concerto No. 1, III with Artur Rubinstein

Your breasts/ ---sliced-off ---The scars
dimmed ---as they would have to be
years later

All the women I grew up with are sitting
half-naked on rocks ---in sun
we look at each other and
are not ashamed

and you too have taken off your blouse
but this was not what you wanted:

to show your scarred, deleted torso

I barely glance at you
as if my look could scald you
though I'm the one who loved you

I want to touch my fingers
to where your breasts had been
but we never did such things

You hadn't thought everyone
would look so perfect

you pull on
your blouse again: ---stern statement:

There are things I will not share
with everyone

You send me back to share
my own scars ---first of all
with myself

What did I hide from her
what have I denied her
what losses suffered

how in this ignorant body
did she hide

waiting for her release
till uncontrollable light began to pour

from every wound and suture
and all the sacred openings

Wartime. ---We sit on warm
weathered, softening grey boards

the ladder glimmers where you told me
the leeches swim

I smell the flame
of kerosene ---the pine

boards where we sleep side by side
in narrow cots

the night-meadow exhaling
its darkness ---calling

child into woman
child into woman

Most of our love from the age of nine
took the form of jokes and mute

loyalty: ---you fought a girl
who said she'd knock me down

we did each other's homework
wrote letters ---kept in touch, untouching

lied about our lives: ---I wearing
the face of the proper marriage

you the face of the independent woman
We cleaved to each other across that space

fingering webs
of love and estrangement ---till the day

the gynecologist touched your breast
and found a palpable hardness

You played heroic, necessary
games with death

since in your neo-protestant tribe the void
was supposed not to exist

except as a fashionable concept
you had no traffic with

I wish you were here tonight ---I want
to yell at you

Don't accept
Don't give in

But would I be meaning your brave
irreproachable life, you dean of women, or

your unfair, unfashionable, unforgivable
woman's death?

You are every woman I ever loved
and disavowed

a bloody incandescent chord strung out
across years, tracts of space

How can I reconcile this passion
with our modesty

your calvinist heritage
my girlhood frozen into forms

how can I go on this mission
without you

you, who might have told me
everything you feel is true?

Time after time in dreams you rise

once from a wheelchair pushed by your father
across a lethal expressway

Of all my dead it's you
who come to me unfinished

You left me amber beads
strung with turquoise from an Egyptian grave

I wear them wondering
How am I true to you?

I'm half-afraid to write poetry
for you ---who never read it much

and I'm left laboring
with the secrets and the silence

In plain language: ---I never told you how I loved you
we never talked at your deathbed of your death

One autumn evening in a train
catching the diamond-flash of sunset

in puddles along the Hudson
I thought: ---I understand

life and death now, the choices
I didn't know your choice

or how by then you had no choice
how the body tells the truth in its rush of cells

Most of our love took the form
of mute loyalty

we never spoke at your deathbed of your death

but from here on
I want more crazy mourning, more howl, more keening

We stayed mute and disloyal
because we were afraid

I would have touched my fingers
to where your breasts had been
but we never did such things


from The Dream of a Common Language, Poems 1974-1977 (W. W. Norton, 1993)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Joshua Bell to his violin, by Jennifer Grotz

Robert Schumann - Träumerei, with Joshua Bell

This is what I hear when you begin to dip
and quiver: I have one hundred lit candles
to blow out. Then my throat goes sore,
tightens while oxygen passes through it,

and the candles throb like manic petals
jealous of the music my arm releases from you.

I am so young my bones have made a place
for you, my wrist bends, my neck crooks to hold
your shallow body like a teenager balances a phone.
Stradivarius, sometimes I enact a sonorous trembling,

bangs convulsing around my face, the audience
coughing, you with your misery and me to get it out.

I do not know where it comes from,
that wind. You were shaped to help
its arrival, an emblem of grief, not the grief itself.
The sound leaves before we can change it.

This time a woman has caught the sound and holds it
in her throat. I confess it is only a way to understand

the music's loss, but no one is ever merely
vessel, violin, your smooth wood stained
the color of dried blood and my chin locking you
against my neck. I cradle you.

Toppling beauty: the candles require air and you
give them wind until they flicker and smoke.

from Cusp: Poems (Mariner Original, 2003)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Fugue, by Daniel Halpern

Giuseppe Verdi - Prelude to Act I, La Traviata

A child asks endlessly about dying,
not death, but some fixed point,
not the state and estate of death.

It's about the invisible net
of infinity cast over
so small a frame of reference.

For the rest of us the net fills gradually in,
like an image coming up coyly but decisively
in a darkroom tray of chemicals.

We took a trip to the House of Reptiles
where I looked into the humorless eyes
of the albino reticulated python

set in their cold skull like precious, unpolished stones--
eyes like the precipice that invites
the wary to leap, pulled over by reverse phobia.

For three dollars we were allowed the chance
to face death eye to eye, inches
and a thickness of glass away,

the reptile simultaneously metaphor
and pathway out of this life,
coiled, patient, solemnly inquisitive.

Not the act of dying,
but the estate of limbo--
the days run out, no longer oneself.

from Something Shining: Poems (Knopf, 1999)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Open your eyes

Giuseppe Verdi - "Vendetta", from Rigoletto
with Tito Gobbi & Lina Pagliughi

Be careful-
waving your poem
sword can decimate
silkword scarves
and expose jugulars
that will drown us
in their burnt red

Friday, June 26, 2009

We are alone, by Dorothy Livesay

W. A. Mozart - Sull'aria, Le Nozze di Figaro
with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa & Ileana Cotrubas

We are alone, who strove to be
Together in the high sun's weather.

We are bereft, as broods a tree
Whose leaves the river sucks forever.

We are as clouds, which merge and vanish
Leaving breathless the dead horizon-

We are as comrades, whose handshake only
Comes rare as leap-year and mistletoe morning.

Each one ploughing a one-man clearing
Neither one alive to see

In wider boundaries of daring
What the recompense might be.

from Re:Generations: Canadian Women Poets in Conversation (Black Moss Press, 2005)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Fall, by Thomas Merton

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Laudate Dominum
from "Vesperae solenne de confessore" KV 339
with Kiri te Kanawa

There is no where in you a paradise that is no place and there
You do not enter except without a story.

To enter there is to become unnameable.

Whoever is nowhere is nobody, and therefore cannot exist except as unborn:
No disguise will avail him anything

Such a one is neither lost nor found.

But he who has an address is lost.

They fall, they fall into apartments and are securely established!

They find themselves in streets. They are licensed
To proceed from place to place
They now know their own names
They can name several friends and know
Their own telephones must some time ring.

If all telephones ring at once, if all names are shouted at once and all cars crash at one crossing:
If all cities explode and fly away in dust
Yet identities refuse to be lost. There is a name and a number for everyone.

There is a definite place for bodies, there are pigeon holes for ashes:
Such security can business buy!

Who would dare to go nameless in so secure a universe?
Yet, to tell the truth, only the nameless are at home in it.

They bear with them in the center of nowhere the unborn flower of nothing:
This is the paradise tree. It must remain unseen until words end and arguments are silent.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Longing, by Sue Sinclair

Ludwig van Beethoven - Cello Sonata No.3 in A major, Op.69 - III
with Pablo Casals, cello and Mieczyslaw Horszowski, piano

Tired of being alone, especially at night.
The stars broken down in the sky, engines stalled,
shining, waiting for rescue.
The height of things stares down at you.

You settle into the night's own loneliness,
let the universe expand, stretch like a curing hide.
Someday the absence on the other side
will show through, unquantified:
if history is an animal, this is its pain,
an unspoken reproach, the throbbing in the vein
that accompanies the inevitable going forth,
you or someone like you taking the place
of the unborn, feeling their stare.

Is the great beauty of things somehow visible to itself?
If so, is it enough? For how quickly it vanishes,
becomes its own ghost. And then there is you:
you have only the barest idea of what you'll leave behind.
History must feel its failures vividly.
You wonder if it heard the chorus fade away
when you were born, for you grew up
knowing nothing of the echoes that surrounded you,
still less of the voices that will be lost when you leave.

in Breaker, Brick Books, 2008

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Big Boots Of Pain, by Anne Sexton

Henry Purcell - Dido's Lament
from Dido and Æneas, with Dame Janet Baker
Glyndebourne, 1966. Conductor: Charles Mackerras

There can be certain potions
needled in by the clock
for the body's fall from grace,
to untorture and to plead for.
These I have known
and would sell all my furniture
and books and assorted goods
to avoid, and more, more.

But the other pain...
I would sell my life to avoid
the pain that begins in the crib
with its bars or perhaps
with your first breath
when the planets drill
your future into you
for better or worse
as you marry life
and the love that gets doled out
or doesn't.

I find now, swallowing one teaspoon
of pain, that it drops downward
to the past where it mixes
with last year's cupful
and downward into a decade's quart
and downward into a lifetime's ocean.
I alternate treading water
and deadman's float.

The teaspoon ought to be bearable
if it didn't mix into the reruns
and thus enlarge into what it is not,
a sea pest's sting turning promptly
into the shark's neat biting off
of a leg because the soul
wears a magnifying glass.
Kicking the heart
with pain's big boots running up and down
the intestines like a motorcycle racer.

Yet one does get out of bed
and start over, plunge into the day
and put on a hopeful look
and does not allow fear to build a wall
between you and an old friend
or a new friend and reach out your hand,
shutting down the thought that
an axe may cut it off unexpectedly.
One learns not to blab about all this
except to yourself or the typewriter keys
who tell no one until they get brave
and crawl off onto the printed page.

I'm getting bored with it,
I tell the typewriter,
this constantly walking around
in wet shoes and then, surprise!
Somehow DECEASED keeps getting
stamped in red over the word HOPE.
And I who keep falling thankfully
into each new pillow of belief,
finding my Mercy Street,
kissing it and tenderly gift-wrapping my love,
am beginning to wonder just what
the planets had in mind on November 9th, 1928.
The pillows are ripped away,
the hand guillotined,
dog shit thrown into the middle of a laugh,
a hornets' nest building into the hi-fi speaker
and leaving me in silence,
where, without music,
I become a cracked orphan.

one gets out of bed
and the planets don't always hiss
or muck up the day, each day.
As for the pain and its multiplying teaspoon,
perhaps it is a medicine
that will cure the soul
of its greed for love
next Thursday.

in The Complete Poems: Anne Sexton, Mariner Books (1999)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Agape, by Timothy Murphy

Hector Berlioz - Lacrymosa, Grande Messe des Morts (Requiem)

The night you died, I dreamed you came to camp
to hear confession from an Eagle Scout
tortured by forty years of sin and doubt.
You whispered vespers by a hissing lamp.

Handlers, allowing you to hike with me,
followed us to the Bad Axe waterfront
down a firebreak this camper used to hunt.
Through all I said you suffered silently.

I blamed the authors of my unbelief:
St. Paul, who would have deemed my love obscene,
the Jesuit who raped me as a teen,
the altar boy when I was six, the grief

of a child chucked from Eden, left for dead
by Peter’s Church and all the choirs above.
In a thick Polish accent choked with love,
Te Dominus amat was all you said.

NOTES: Pope John Paul II died on April 2, 2005, and that night he visited me in a dream. This dream recurred three times. The last time was April 15, 2007—the night Pope Benedict XVI accosted American bishops over the matter of clerical sexual abuse—when this poem came to me in its entirety. I rose and immediately typed it. In every instance the dream was identical, and John Paul’s words were the same. Te Dominus amat is Latin for “God loves you.”— TM

Source: Poetry (June 2009)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Twenty-One Love Poems, VI, by Adrienne Rich

Prelude in B minor, arranged for piano by Alexander Siloti
from Prelude in E minor BWV 855a by J. S. Bach
with Emil Gilels

Your small hands, precisely equal to my own -
only the thumb is larger, longer - in these hands
I could trust the world, or in many hands like these,
handling power-tools or steering-wheel
or touching a human face...such hands could turn
the unborn child rightways in the birth canal
or pilot the exploratory rescue-ship
through icebergs, or piece together
the fine, needle-like shreds of a great krater-cup
bearing on its sides
fingers of ecstatic women striding
to the sibyl's den or the Eleusinian cave -
such hands might carry out an unavoidable violence
with such restraint, with such a grasp
of the range and limits of violence
that violence ever after would be obsolete.

in The Fact of a Door Frame: Poems Selected and New, 1950-84, WW Norton & Co (1985)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Shoulders, by Naomi Shihab Nye

Robert Schumann - Romance, Op. 28, No. 2, with Arthur Rubinstein

A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is sleeping on his shoulder.

No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.

This man carries the world's most sensitive cargo
but he's not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,

His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy's dream
deep inside him.

We're not going to be able
to live in this world
if we're not willing to do what he's doing
with one another.

The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.

from Reflections, Spring 2009, Yale Divinity School

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hum, by Ann Lauterbach

Giacomo Puccini - "Senza Mamma" from Suor Angelica, with Maria Callas

The days are beautiful
The days are beautiful.

I know what days are.
The other is weather.

I know what weather is.
The days are beautiful.

Things are incidental.
Someone is weeping.

I weep for the incidental.
The days are beautiful.

Where is tomorrow?
Everyone will weep.

Tomorrow was yesterday.
The days are beautiful.

Tomorrow was yesterday.
Today is weather.

The sound of the weather
Is everyone weeping.

Everyone is incidental.
Everyone weeps.

The tears of today
Will put out tomorrow.

The rain is ashes.
The days are beautiful.

The rain falls down.
The sound is falling.

The sky is a cloud.
The days are beautiful.

The sky is dust.
The weather is yesterday.

The weather is yesterday.
The sound is weeping.

What is this dust?
The weather is nothing.

The days are beautiful.
The towers are yesterday.

The towers are incidental.
What are these ashes?

Here is the hate
That does not travel.

Here is the robe
That smells of the night

Here are the words
Retired to their books

Here are the stones
Loosed from their settings

Here is the bridge
Over the water

Here is the place
Where the sun came up

Here is a season
Dry in the fireplace.

Here are the ashes.
The days are beautiful.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dark Prophecy: I Sing Of Shine, by Etheridge Knight

Johann Sebastian Bach - Concerto for Two Violins,
with Taro Hakase & Iwao Furusawa

And, yeah brothers
while white America sings about the unsinkable molly brown
(who was hustling the titanic
when it went down)
I sing to thee of Shine
the stoker who was hip enough to flee the fucking ship
and let the white folks drown
with screams on their lips
(jumped his black ass into the dark sea, Shine did,
broke free from the straining steel).
Yeah, I sing to thee of Shine
and how the millionaire banker stood on the deck
and pulled from his pockets a million dollar check
saying Shine Shine save poor me
and I'll give you all the money a black boy needs—
how Shine looked at the money and then at the sea
and said jump in muthafucka and swim like me—
and Shine swam on—Shine swam on—
and how the banker's daughter ran naked on the deck
with her pink tits trembling and her pants roun her neck
screaming Shine Shine save poor me
and I'll give you all the pussy a black boy needs—
how Shine said now pussy is good and that's no jive
but you got to swim not fuck to stay alive—
And Shine swam on Shine Swam on—

How Shine swam past a preacher afloating on a board
crying save me nigger Shine in the name of the Lord—
and how the preacher grabbed Shine's arm and broke his stroke—
how Shine pulled his shank and cut the preacher's throat—
And Shine swam on—Shine swam on—
And when news hit shore that the titanic had sunk
Shine was up in Harlem damn near drunk—


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

People at Night, by Denise Levertov

Ludwig van Beethoven - Piano Trio in D major Op. 70 No. 1 (Ghost), I
Melbourne Piano Trio
(June 2011 at The Independent, Sydney)
Ji Won Kim, violin 
Chris Howlett, cello 
Hoang Pham, piano

A night that cuts between you and you
and you and you and you
and me : jostles us apart, a man elbowing
through a crowd. .........We won't
..................look for each other, either-
wander off, each alone, not looking
in the slow crowd. Among sideshows
..................under movie signs, made of a million lights,
..................giants that move and again move
..................again, above a cloud of thick smells,
..................franks, roasted nutmeats-

Or going up to some apartment, yours
..................or yours, finding
someone sitting in the dark:
who is it really? So you switch the
light on to see: you know the name but
who is it ?
.........But you won't see.

The fluorescent light flickers sullenly, a
pause. But you command. It grabs
each face and holds it up
by the hair for you, mask after mask.
..................You and you and I repeat
..................gestures that make do when speech
..................has failed .........and talk
..................and talk, laughing, saying
..................'I', and 'I',
meaning 'Anybody'.
...........................No one.


Saturday, May 9, 2009

wishes for sons, by Lucille Clifton

Giuseppe Verdi - "Questa donna conoscete?", La Traviata
with Raina Kabaivanska & Piero Visconti

i wish them cramps.
i wish them a strange town
and the last tampon.
i wish them no 7-11.

i wish them one week early
and wearing a white skirt.
i wish them one week late.

later i wish them hot flashes
and clots like you
wouldn't believe. let the
flashes come when they
meet someone special.
let the clots come
when they want to.

let them think they have accepted
arrogance in the universe,
then bring them to gynecologists
not unlike themselves.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Conjugation of the Paramecium, by Muriel Rukeyser

Johannes Brahms - Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115 for viola,
with Selka-Vengerov-Rachlin-Spitzer-Maisky

This has nothing
to do with

The species
is continued
as so many are
(among the smaller creatures)
by fission

(and this species
is very small
next in order to
the amoeba, the beginning one)

The paramecium
achieves, then,
by dividing

But when
the paramecium
desires renewal
strength another joy
this is what
the paramecium does:

The paramecium
lies down beside
another paramecium

Slowly inexplicably
the exchange
takes place
in which
some bits
of the nucleus of each
are exchanged

for some bits
of the nucleus
of the other

This is called
the conjugation of the paramecium.

from A Muriel Rukeyser Reader, W.W. Norton & Co. (1995)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Home Burial, by Robert Frost

Alexander Scriabin - Piano Sonata No. 9, Op. 68 "Black Mass" 
with Sviatoslav Richter

He saw her from the bottom of the stairs
Before she saw him. She was starting down,
Looking back over her shoulder at some fear.
She took a doubtful step and then undid it
To raise herself and look again. He spoke
Advancing toward her: “What is it you see
From up there always—for I want to know.”
She turned and sank upon her skirts at that,
And her face changed from terrified to dull.
He said to gain time: “What is it you see,”
Mounting until she cowered under him.
“I will find out now—you must tell me, dear.”
She, in her place, refused him any help
With the least stiffening of her neck and silence.
She let him look, sure that he wouldn’t see,
Blind creature; and a while he didn’t see.
But at last he murmured, “Oh,” and again, “Oh.”

“What is it—what?” she said.

“Just that I see.”

“You don’t,” she challenged. “Tell me what it is.”

“The wonder is I didn’t see at once.
I never noticed it from here before.
I must be wonted to it—that’s the reason.
The little graveyard where my people are!
So small the window frames the whole of it.
Not so much larger than a bedroom, is it?
There are three stones of slate and one of marble,
Broad-shouldered little slabs there in the sunlight
On the sidehill. We haven’t to mind those.
But I understand: it is not the stones,
But the child’s mound——”

“Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t,” she cried.

She withdrew shrinking from beneath his arm
That rested on the banister, and slid downstairs;
And turned on him with such a daunting look,
He said twice over before he knew himself:
“Can’t a man speak of his own child he’s lost?”

“Not you! Oh, where’s my hat? Oh, I don’t need it!
I must get out of here. I must get air.
I don’t know rightly whether any man can.”

“Amy! Don’t go to someone else this time.
Listen to me. I won’t come down the stairs.”
He sat and fixed his chin between his fists.
“There’s something I should like to ask you, dear.”

“You don’t know how to ask it.”

“Help me, then.”
Her fingers moved the latch for all reply.

“My words are nearly always an offence.
I don’t know how to speak of anything
So as to please you. But I might be taught
I should suppose. I can’t say I see how.
A man must partly give up being a man
With women-folk. We could have some arrangement
By which I’d bind myself to keep hands off
Anything special you’re a-mind to name.
Though I don’t like such things ’twixt those that love.
Two that don’t love can’t live together without them.
But two that do can’t live together with them.”
She moved the latch a little. “Don’t—don’t go.
Don’t carry it to someone else this time.
Tell me about it if it’s something human.
Let me into your grief. I’m not so much
Unlike other folks as your standing there
Apart would make me out. Give me my chance.
I do think, though, you overdo it a little.
What was it brought you up to think it the thing
To take your mother-loss of a first child
So inconsolably—in the face of love.
You’d think his memory might be satisfied——”

“There you go sneering now!”

“I’m not, I’m not!
You make me angry. I’ll come down to you.
God, what a woman! And it’s come to this,
A man can’t speak of his own child that’s dead.”

“You can’t because you don’t know how.
If you had any feelings, you that dug
With your own hand—how could you?—his little grave;
I saw you from that very window there,
Making the gravel leap and leap in air,
Leap up, like that, like that, and land so lightly
And roll back down the mound beside the hole.
I thought, Who is that man? I didn’t know you.
And I crept down the stairs and up the stairs
To look again, and still your spade kept lifting.
Then you came in. I heard your rumbling voice
Out in the kitchen, and I don’t know why,
But I went near to see with my own eyes.
You could sit there with the stains on your shoes
Of the fresh earth from your own baby’s grave
And talk about your everyday concerns.
You had stood the spade up against the wall
Outside there in the entry, for I saw it.”

“I shall laugh the worst laugh I ever laughed.
I’m cursed. God, if I don’t believe I’m cursed.”

“I can repeat the very words you were saying.
‘Three foggy mornings and one rainy day
Will rot the best birch fence a man can build.’
Think of it, talk like that at such a time!
What had how long it takes a birch to rot
To do with what was in the darkened parlour.
You couldn’t care! The nearest friends can go
With anyone to death, comes so far short
They might as well not try to go at all.
No, from the time when one is sick to death,
One is alone, and he dies more alone.
Friends make pretence of following to the grave,
But before one is in it, their minds are turned
And making the best of their way back to life
And living people, and things they understand.
But the world’s evil. I won’t have grief so
If I can change it. Oh, I won’t, I won’t!”

“There, you have said it all and you feel better.
You won’t go now. You’re crying. Close the door.
The heart’s gone out of it: why keep it up.
Amy! There’s someone coming down the road!”

“You—oh, you think the talk is all. I must go—
Somewhere out of this house. How can I make you——”

“If—you—do!” She was opening the door wider.
Where do you mean to go? First tell me that.
I’ll follow and bring you back by force. I will!—”

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Luna moth meditation, by Don McKay

Frédéric Chopin - Nocturne no. 19, Op 72 no. 1, with Sviatoslav Richter

How foolish to think death's pale flag
would be rectangular and stark, rather than this
scrap of wedding dress symmetrically ripped
and sent back, cruelly,
to be his deaf and nearly mouthless
messenger. As it unfolds -- gorgeous, appalling --
I can feel my mind fill up
with its own weight, as though
suffering unexpected snowfall.
Think of a Eurydice who makes it
all the way, following an Orpheus
with more self-discipline,
and probably less talent, just to find herself
forbidden that huge
other eros: she craves the darkness and her legs
drink down into dirt. And that moment
in the sickroom when the dead one's been removed
and the Kleenex in the waste can
starts to metamorphose, tissue
taking wing, wing
taking the very drape and slope of grief
and struggling out the door.

from Another Gravity, McClelland & Stewart (2000)

Friday, April 17, 2009

K. 219, Adagio, by Jan Zwicky

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major K219, Adagio
with Janine Jansen violin, European Union Youth Orchestra, Vladimir Ashkenazy conductor

Now the sky above New Mexico
is hazy with Los Angeles, what words
will you invent for clarity?

Some things were always nameless:
the heart as a rainbarrel,
the ear a long-stemmed glass.

The fiddle is still maple turned with starlight,
the bow, breath with a backbone,
sweet with sap.

That long trill
is a hand that lifts your hair
a final time, sunlight, a last kiss

that knows it is the last.
And the phrase that follows:
a small voice talking to itself, how

some moments are so huge
you notice only little things:
nicks in the tabletop, the angle of a fork.

Drink. It
is what you will have
to remember:

rain's vowelless syntax,
how mathematics was an elegy,
the slenderness of trees.

in Songs for Relinquishing the Earth, Brick Books, 1998

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Recovery, by Jan Zwicky

Ludwig van Beethoven - Sonata in E major Op. 109, III 
with Lívia Rév

And when at last grief has dried you out, nearly
weightless, like a little bone, one day,
no reason in particular, the world decides to tug:
twinge under the breastbone, the sudden thought
you might stand up, walk to the door and
keep on going... And in the seconds following,
like the silence following the boom under the river ice, it all
seems possible, the egg-smooth clarity of the new-awakened,
rising, to stand, and walk... But already
at the edges of the crack, sorrow
starts to ooze, the brown stain spreading
and you think: there is no end to it.

But in the breaking, something else is given - not
that glittering jumble, shrieking and churning in the blind
..................................................centre of the afternoon,
but something else - a scent,
like a door flung open, a sudden downpour
through which you can still see the sun, derelict
in the neighbour's field, the wren's bright eye in the thicket.
As though on that day in August, or even July,
when you were first thinking of autumn, you remembered also
the last day of spring, which had passed
without your noticing. Something that easy, let go
without a thought, untroubled by oblivion,
a bird, a smile.

in Songs for Relinquishing the Earth, Brick Books, 1998

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

My Dreams, My Works, Must Wait Till After Hell - Gwendolyn Brooks

Giacomo Puccini - "Recondita armonia," Tosca 
with Placido Domingo

I hold my honey and I store my bread
In little jars and cabinets of my will.
I label clearly, and each latch and lid
I bid, Be firm till I return from hell.
I am very hungry. I am incomplete.
And none can give me any word but Wait,
The puny light. I keep my eyes pointed in;
Hoping that, when the devil days of my hurt
Drag out to their last dregs and I resume
On such legs as are left me, in such heart
As I can manage, remember to go home,
My taste will not have turned insensitive
To honey and bread old purity could love.

from Selected Poems (1963)

Friday, April 3, 2009

John Keats - Ode on Melancholy

Gaetano Donizetti - Una Furtiva Lagrima, 
from L'elisir d'amore, with Luciano Pavarotti

No, no! go not to Lethe, neither twist
Wolf's-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kissed
By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;
Make not your rosary of yew-berries,
Nor let the beetle nor the death-moth be
Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
A partner in your sorrow's mysteries;
For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.

But when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.

She dwells with Beauty -- Beauty that must die;
And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips;
Ay, in the very temple of delight
Veiled Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy's grape against his palate fine;
His soul shall taste the sadness of her might,
And be among her cloudy trophies hung.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Of Rain and Air, by Wayne Dodd

Maurice Ravel, Piano Concerto in G major, II (Martha Argerich, 1990)

All day I have been closed up
inside rooms, speaking of trivial
matters. Now at last I have come out
into the night, myself a center

of darkness.
Beneath the clouds the low sky glows
with scattered lights. I can hardly think
this is happening. Here in this bright absence

of day, I feel myself opening out
with contentment.
All around me the soft rain is whispering
of thousands of feet of air

invisible above us.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Death Foretold, by Ingrid de Kok

Umberto Giordano - "La Mamma Morta", Andrea Chénier
with Maria Callas (1955)

Here to see you
say goodbye
rest my cheek
upon your hair.

Leaving you
I cross the road alone
holding my own hand.

Lights in three colours
send me forward, caution me
stop me in my tracks

as worlds wheel by
inside cars
where other mothers
turn their shining heads

towards some other
breathing child.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Black Oaks, by Mary Oliver

Gabriel Urbain Fauré - "Pie Jesu", Requiem Op.48 with Lucia Popp

Okay, not one can write a symphony, or a dictionary,
or even a letter to an old friend, full of remembrance
and comfort.

Not one can manage a single sound though the blue jays
carp and whistle all day in the branches, without
the push of the wind.

But to tell the truth after a while I'm pale with longing
for their thick bodies ruckled with lichen

and you can't keep me from the woods, from the tonnage
of their shoulders, and their shining green hair.

Today is a day like any other: twenty-four hours, a
little sunshine, a little rain.

Listen, says ambition, nervously shifting her weight from
one boot to another -- why don't you get going?

For there I am, in the mossy shadows, under the trees.

And to tell the truth I don't want to let go of the wrists
of idleness, I don't want to sell my life for money,
I don't even want to come in out of the rain.

from Blue Iris: Poems and Essays