Sunday, April 26, 2009
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
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
..................how 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
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.
is what you will have
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
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
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
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.