Wednesday, May 11, 2011

the haunted violin (for Constance Stadler)

A piano sustains our granular need
to fall between fragments of wonder.
Octaves echo human feelings, yes,
but more, the lure is abstraction.

A violin is already haunted with voices --
the plaintive songs of mountain spruces.
Can you hear secret winds in the timbre,
like a common tune of all fibered beings?

I have seen that youthful picture of you,
rapt in communion with a violin. I can hear
an imaginary tone sostenuto, with vibrato.

Nestled under a chin's held nod,
a violin almost resonates bones
and the pulse of animate plasmas.
Inner harmonics carry much saying
on the tip of a bow's touching tongue.
I've heard something in your poems
beneath the words, a world of feeling
and thinking along the fretless neck.
Those tones converge aesthetically,
becoming a philosophical sonata.

Yes, I think language is like a haunted violin....

The trampled dust remembers footprints
of lithe leopards and the upright walkers
who lean toward jade-cool distances
of mountains after hot savannah suns.
Teeth rot, flint sparks, and tears burn.
Childbirth shrieks under hanging clouds.
A modal story chanted on quivering lips
becomes lamentations to astounded gods.

A fugue spreads its overlapping grammars --
horrific moons of nightmare and lunacy,
with interwoven spells of amorous magic.
The slow thunder of lost ages drones
till drunken grapes are grown for dancing.
A city scatters dazzled peacock colors
in a rhythm of silks and furtive gestures
curling through tales of sacerdotal night.

War shudders iron and trembles bronze!
Sunsets drip blood, seas lash great galleys.
Lepers are cast out, slaves are collected.
Swords tear flesh while empires are broken.
The music of madness pounds in temples.
Marble and thought are veined with power.
Logic chases tortoises, many plagues bulge
eyes of the hopeless waiting for graves.

Shuffling and lit by Faustian torches,
alchemists spill atoms onto the future.
Momentum, inertia, and star tubes follow --
a god seeks shelter, quaking at trumpets.
Then mind so awake stares in its mirror
and threatens mystery with didactic words.
Awake and pacing in books and lectures,
the mood soon sings an aria of freedom.

The cursing eye opens -- suspicion and envy.
The world is a symphony of machines and hate.
Millions murdered by shrapnel and death camps.
The tissue of time has been rended, worn thin.
Yet even in tomorrow's fogs and confusions,
a note is sounded with compassionate bowing.
Souls gather round it, caressing the wounded
and almost pray music to an impossible god.

Deep in the fine grains of curvaceous telling,
in the resinous mixture of sounding substance,
in the haunted pleading of a violin's soprano...
the old song keeps time with our words on paper.


  1. My son plays violin. I even got to hear him play at Carnegie Hall with a youth orchestra about 15 years ago. Haunted with voices is so aptly put. There is no other sound that hits me squarely in the chest. I play piano. I understand your distinctions between the two. Your language here was beautiful.

  2. Carnegie Hall -- that's wonderful! Gosh, I wish I could play piano. Thank you again for reading!