Ode to Bach

On listening to an organ prelude*

Sitting, staring, stopped,
I wait with singular patience
until the music croons and swarms
to deeper than remembrance
melody warm with the semblance
of things late lost to thought.
Passive like this,
I contemplate the harmony
like poured honey, melting
beneath a circumstance of tones.

The maker of this song but a man,
that man, the thrum of his art.
Music, I ponder, is unlike other things
in our world, and yet –
the animal songs of summer,
the purr of a kitten content,
whir of insect or hummingbird’s wing
or whale-song flung
in the dark eye of ocean’s
unforgiving spring.

So once more back I turn –
all the way back, it seems,
to incipient grunt and fumble
finally, over eons, melded to a chant,
to hymn, chorus, symphony,
hosanna of sound – thrust
to the cosmos plaintive or gay –
the euphonic refrain, I am!

I sit, no body but an ear
one exquisite quiver amidst
the teasing tyranny of time
composing a soliloquy
to elegize that so deftly mined –
to life, swift snippet of thread
starkly staved, so thus, sublime.

{This poem was started decades ago, in college, and I lost all but the first stanza; perhaps should just end it there.}

*I believe this is the one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfckuoqKxp8


Kentucky Keepsake

I have already decided
what to tell my siblings
when the time comes.
I want the fragile chain
with the little round clock
I never saw her wear.

To a child it was magical:
clock as necklace as clock.
I loved perusing her jewelry
box, Pandora’s better twin.

My kin will be surprised
when I pass on the ivory-inlaid
table, the plush, luscious sofa,
beautifully-wrought garments,
filigreed iron headboard.

But no,
just the watch that ticked
a half-century ago,
before the bluegrass turned to snow.

Once a Garden

It is August, but chilly in the foothills.
Winter teases the garden
unready to bow its bounty.
Rain tee-dums off the roof:
a disembodied heart.
I, too, beat, am dying.

There is no work
for this too-much-bodied self of dysfunction;
my only task can be to hear in the rain
music or words, and release them
to paper or air.

I have always cherished the melancholy that is rain,
but today it echoes an insistent inward tapping:
I am not happy. Some thirty thousand days –
And so? Were there promises?

I was once a garden, bedecked and beautiful,
and rain was my god.
Now I need more nurture more,
facing the final frost.

I tap keys, tum-tee-dum. A man loves me,
who is not mine – his problems are more urgent:
a leaking roof. If he wants, he can see the sky
from his kitchen, but will just get his eyes wet.

Should this not be enough,
an intact roof, a heater by one’s side,
a phantom love? Apparently not.
It is time to lie down.

Alone. Alone.
Rain can be a torrent, but each drop travels alone.


There is a bear in the house – his angry thuds

shudder the walls.
He lumbers for prey, which can be anything –
a kitten will do, a woman, a small, wincing child.
His gait is explosive at times and, raging, he towers over
the two of you cowering tightly,
creating a clan of three crescent moons,
concentrically huddled, like Russian dolls
within dolls, in dolls – bloodless, only bloody.

By some grace, his hibernations are frequent
with whole afternoons or evenings of respite, and
after a good rest he is calm, eerily so, and with time
transforms before your widening eyes:
though impossibly tall, he’s down now on all fours.

The thick neck thins, elongates – fleshy lips replace the scowl.
Peering from coiled woolen fur, his eyes soften and swell,
until, long-lashed, angelic he’s a bear no more,
but something rather ….llama-like,
lunching laconically on a cud,
as is usual, between transmogrifications.

And then, due to some small infraction,
as swift as sudden wind ripping from the north,
he bursts to full girth – a behemoth on giant paws,
his claws wicked spikes.
The humongous mass casts a Colossus’s shadow
on claustrophobic walls – the tender vapory eyes
now Satanic. Steel.

The attack is vicious, but you remain statue-still.
You wish yourself a rock.
You think, be rock, while in reality you feel a flailing
as of a thousand phantom limbs.
Finally slaked, he lumbers clumsily to his den
where the foraging is worse, but it’s cooler, and dim.

It’s grown late: light has forsaken the treetops –
you and your little one lie face to face on kissing pillows
arms flung over one another, a conspiracy in darkness.
You whisper tiny things or tremulously sing,
to lull yourselves to sleep. You feel the rapid heartbeat
in her back, which slows, as her expirations deepen.
For now, you are safe, as if by some pact —
prone, no longer prey. Numinous. Inviolable.

This night, you dream of the sea
Oh yes, the sea! where the broken go to heal –
Your dream is yellows and greens –
the Aegean, which you’ve never actually seen –
and, to be sure, treacherous things lurk
beneath the glitter of even those welcome waters.
Charitably, though, the dream does not delve that deep,
but remains warm in hue, unlike you!
in your mate-less humbling.

So you race toward the sea, and deliciously plunge –
free of the gargantuan belly
the yowling yawning maw
the inevitability of dawn,
the certain insensate LUNGE.