Posts Tagged ‘music’


What were you doing when you last felt content?
            —Ada Limón

And there, beneath the white tent,
beneath the blue sky, beneath the stars
I could not see, while spinning somewhere
inside a spiral galaxy, I closed my eyes
and let the sound of flute and piano find me,
an Irish song meant to be played with a wee lilt,
though the tune itself knew something of loss,
and I felt my lungs swell and my heart expand
felt my spine straighten and my soles ground,
and I floated inside the music, stunned and surprised
by the vibrant inheritance of being alive. I hummed
with full cellular resonance and then, I was crying—
a warm spilling of tears—for what?
for beauty? for loss? for living with both in one breath?
What was it the tears meant? Oh friends,
as I felt it all with no attempt to push it away,
I was wildly, alively content.

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There is a secret music
that hides inside each yes.
At first we think we know
the tune. Heck, we might
even think we wrote it.
But soon, after yessing,
we learn there is a much
grander score than we ever
might have guessed,
and now we hear how
just one yes,
plucked like a string,
creates harmonies
and dissonances
and asks us to listen again,
not for what we think we hear,
but for everything else—
the soundtrack of the infinite after,
Perhaps you notice it, too,
how the masterpiece
needs you. How each note
informs the song forever.

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There was that summer
when my record player broke,
the needle always returning
to the first song and playing
the whole record again and again,
through morning, through midnight,
and so George Winston’s Winter into Spring
played all through my summer.
Soft and pensive, each melodic phrase
hung spare in the air as if inviting
revelation or breath
before burbling forward like snowmelt.
How I loved that summer,
every moment of it kissed
with chords shattered into arpeggios,
silences and grace notes.
Sometimes breaking brings a gift
we didn’t know we needed,
the way a broken record player
steeped me for months
in the grace of a melancholic beauty
and made the haunting familiar.
The way a broken heart can bring up
a record of beautiful memories,
one after another, day after day,
and somehow heal us by making a masterpiece
of the wreckage.

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There will be more
swells of grief that tug
me into their gray embrace,
and swirls of lament,
and great rollers of loss,
and rising waves of ache.
But for now,
the morning sun
slips low through the window
in a major key
and the cat finds a home
in my lap and purrs
and the tea in my cup
is warm and full of bright notes
and I’m here, in this
peace, in this sunlit
octave, I’m here.

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In the dark, we follow
the wail of live jazz
till at last we discover
the trio playing
on the street corner.

Not all invitations
to fall in love with life
are this easy to follow—
just turn the corner,
walk a few blocks,
then find a place to linger.

But tonight, the invitation
is so clear: to be led by the music
of the moment, to listen
with the silence inside.

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For your birthday, Johannes,
I listened to your first piano concerto,
my heart trembling like a tuning fork
as the ivory keys and nylon strings
conversed about tenebrous grief and loss.

No one hissed in the audience
the way they did when your concerto
debuted. In fact, in my kitchen,
I sighed. I gasped. I thanked you
for the turbulence. What a gift when our sorrow

meets a sister sorrow so beautiful
we forget our own story, our own name,
and we tender what’s left
of our aching hearts to the blooming dark
that even now opens around us, inside us.

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lyrics from "The Tide Is High" by John Holt, 1967
Something about the unsinkable reggae beat,
and in just three notes, I’m again my young self,
dancing alone in my bedroom,
singing as if I am one with the song,
as if it were written just for me,
I’m not the kind of girl
who gives up just like that, oh no, oh!
And singing it now on a Sunday afternoon,
I’m caught in a surprise riptide of joy
and start to lilt around the room,
though just moments ago I was weeping,
buried beneath the salt of worry,
but here I am, dancing alone,
hips rocking, my shoulders a rolling sea,
my voice surfing above the bright swell of trumpets.
The tide is high but I’m holding on.
Sometimes a song is a lifeline,
not because it pulls me out of the water,
but because it tosses me deeper in,
and I feel I’m no longer trapping myself
in a life the size of a teacup—
no, in this moment I am oceanic,
an Atlantic of joy, a Pacific of wonder
vast enough to hold everything,
and the tide is high
and all that salt only makes me more buoyant
as I play in the generous waves.

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That Song

I want to slip into the song

you sang, the one with verse

about loss. I want to hang

on its notes as if they were branches

I could swing from, want to climb

through its chorus, want to meet it

in its rests, want to offer it tea.

I want to ask the guitar

about your fingers, about

how they knew where

to find the melody. And how?

I want to speak with the loss itself,

want to ask it if it’s sure its lost,

want to offer it a map made of apples

and wings and moon.

I want to hear the silence after

the song, and then beg it, beg it,

to keep singing.

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Perhaps we stumbled

on the words, perhaps

we forgot a note,

forgot a bridge,

bumbled our entrances,

fumbled our parts,

but we sang, oh yes,

we sang into the low golden light

of summer, sang

because joy, because

harmony, sang because

lonely, because fear,

sang because, tears

spilling down our cheeks,

we could sing, oh friends,

before we said goodbye,

we could sing.


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All day the world improvises

a song for me—song of bickering robins

and whispering grass, bright chime

of a text and gravel trucks that grumble

on the highway as they pass.


The song I would sing for you, let it be

as spontaneous as the chattering

of the cat watching hummingbirds,

as sharp as the flap of the flag in the wind.

Let me not sing the same song I’ve sung before.


This is the time to sing it new, to sing

the song we didn’t know we were brave enough

to sing. This is the time to sing

the most honest song, thorn song,

green song, yelp of relentless shine.


This is the time to sing as if our lives

depend on it, sing the song

that comes out of attending.

Song of pushing through dirt.

Song we don’t know yet.



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