Mezzo Piano

for Jordan Anderson

The piano teacher dies.
His fingers on the piano keys
Like water dripping from a ceiling
Into the silence of a cave.

The piano teacher dies.
His student now sheds
His practiced changes
Into the void of time feel.

The piano teacher dies.
His student discovers himself
As though crossing hands
At the moment of breaking free.

The piano teacher dies.
The student sits down
To play into the space
Of another accompaniment.

One Pure Note

for Eva Cassidy

Too pure a voice for this life
God’s child and Angel chorister
Deep bride of song
Painter of soul imagery
Spirit inspirited
Death’s half-step and pause
Old child of beauty
Heart translator
Music’s incarnation
With vocal cords
Absolute pitch and blend
Back phrasing from Paradise

Can There Be Enough Music

When music is silent
People are dancing
When people are silent
Blight is consensual
When truth is silent
Havoc is raging
When wind is silent
Storms are mounting
When thunder is silent
Light is imploding
When waves are silent
Distance is singing
When stones are silent
Earth is trembling
When fire is silent
Water is burning
When rain is silent
Hunger and thirst
When music is silent
Madness is shrill
When stars are silent
The hum is silent
When God is silent
Can there be enough music

Musicians in the House

Fill the air with music and talk,
A little wine and later, Bach.

Lulls punctuated by counterpoint
Are their own musical midpoint.

It is like love at prima vista,
Music my first and ever lingua.

I listen to their close voicing
Without myself at all digressing

Into the old man, the angry man,
The bitter and forgotten sideman.

Listening cries angels in my ears
And piano runs melt my fears

And the trumpet my daughter plays
Distills the light with moon rays

And the changes they are blowing
Are the real future we are sowing.

Musical Ruins

Listen, you can hear the walls
Collapse base lines of brick and mortar.
You can hear electric wires
Playing last solos of Woodstock light.
Piano keys compose dust into rows
Of musical crescendo and demolition.
Cellos moan like shuddering lumber,
Violins cry panes of splintering glass,
The acoustics rebound into emptiness,
Hours upon hours of practice
Keep tempo now with wind and space
And the young singer I once heard
In full voice behind a closed door,
Shakes like a tree and won’t give way.

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