À la Sicilienne

My father cuts hair at Cinema Paradiso.
I see him in barbershop mirrors
Like time is repeated on eternity’s reel.

My cousin owns a purgatorial liquor store.
As it was on earth, wine and rapture.
As it will be at rebirth, wine and rapture.

My grandfather shivers like a boy
Even though he’s crossing a lava pit:
Empedocles between love and the void.

My aunt knits ground snail covers
Fit for the gardens of an earthly nirvana
And cradles of dead, infant, elder brothers.

My mother is like a Greek statue
Who gave birth to music in stone,
The triumph of death in the mirror of bone.

School of Music

Not the doors we never open
But the invitation of a violin.

A student sings from La bohème.
Better than ovations, his passionate devotion.

In another room, two trumpets
Sound out the physics of justice.

A young woman with bass clarinet
Or strange fish caught in a drift net.

A bassoonist down the corridor,
All thumbs at the woodwind door.

Every work a work in progress,
Perfecting imperfection in chorus.

Not the doors we never open
But the invitation of a violin.

Composition in Gray

November, you are the urn of the seasons,
All other months are ash inside you–
Body without light, spirit-haunted.
Our waking hours
Resemble more a rainy dream,
Our dreaming, the mist of another life.

I hear an oboe in November,
An oboe drifting through the woods,
Accompanied by strings.
Are not those cellos and violins
Our desires dying even as they desire more life?

From the river a freighter’s foghorn
Throbs in the night.
The rumbling of a distant train
Beats drum rolls for the dead of November.
I dream them in gray.

Along the river’s mist I see the dead,
And then I see her
Who was once naked beside me.
How ashen her beautiful face,
How dead those eyes I knew.
She holds out a cold hand.
I step through to the other side.

Riches of Note

Last night my friend’s twin girls sang in my house, with my daughter on piano and two of her friends from orchestra on cello and violin. They were rehearsing for a wedding– everything from Bach to Bocelli. All I can say is what lovely music the guests will enjoy. All I can say is what a fine house we have built out of poetry, music and art.

The Piano Tuner Tuning the Piano

A country doctor commencing on a cure
A chiropractor stretching the spine of his patient
An ornithologist listening for a particular bird
The dance of lonely awkward people
Children in a schoolyard making friends
Workers striking synchronous hammers
Mice euthanized in a whirlpool of squeals
Boxers wanting to lose the fight they’re winning
The glass of winter dawn shattering
Doors opening on the ringing of time
An avalanche burying the mountainside
A teardrop doing somersaults
Bells learning to cooperate in limited space
The concentration of a prisoner
Chiseling into a wall of silence
A jeweler cutting facets of pure sound
A strongbox opening on a combination that keeps locking it

Another Night at the Opera

At the sickbed of romance
The famous tenor split his pants,
The bodice of the soprano burst,
Letting air out of her aria first…
Tonight seven cell phones,
Twelve bleepers, sixteen coughs,
Forty yawns and eleven sneezes,
Accompanied by gassy breezes,
Joined the hissing, boos and jeers
Amid the music of the spheres.
When the mezzo-soprano began to trill,
Half the mezzanine took ill;
And the basso singing solo
Fell flat on his profondo.
Tonight the chorus was in chaos
When the andante lost its pathos
And the allegro lagged along
Far behind both act and song.
Even the conductor was confused
When the composer left bemused,
And the librettist wrote a letter:
“The opera could not be better—
Save for the flautist blowing Rigoletto,
Found toying with his piccoletto.”


When I picture my mother in her thirties in a red dress
Swooning to Mario Lanza’s Granada
On 78rpm, my memories sound
With forgotten revolutions per minute
Turning to roses and laughter and dance steps,
Turning to Europe in the vast sunset of war
And the static of questions childhood could not form,
As history ate through the grooves
With crackles and bomb blasts
And the beauty that cannot last, but does.