Posts Tagged ‘Schumann’

“It is so sweet,” the song says,
“to jest with songs and with hearts
and with serious combat.”
I do not know the poet,
Emanuel Geibel, nor have I played
Schumann’s Der Hidalgo, Opus 30 No. 3.
But this is what I turn to, Evie,
when I hear you are in Room 879.
I found the text first. “I am always ready
for love or for a fight.” Of course
I would think of you then, you who are
both lover and fighter,
fiercely, equally at the same time.

If I could, I would sit beside
the hospital bed and hum lieder,
hum so I would not mispronounce
the German. Better yet, I would bring
your electric piano to your room
and plunk at the keys in my awkward way
so you could hum along. As the Hidalgo says,
“I sing outside many a grilled window,
and I mock many a knight with an insolent song.”

Surely the pain is a knight worth mocking.
Surely we could conjure up ample insolence
even as we praise the graying winter sky
beyond the window glass, praise the birds
winging past the frame that neither of us
(but your husband) could name, praise
the music of heartache and blossom and loss,
and praise and curse the passions that lead you
to the roads you love.

“Tomorrrow,” says the song, “I shall carry home
flowers or wounds.” I would always wish
for you flowers. Acres and acres of daffodils.
Red buds at the end of your drive. Magnolias
throwing their blossoms into your yard.
But here, the wounds. You have known them before,
and still off you go, as Geibel writes, “off, then,
to adventure!” To adventure, Evie,
to adventure! Oh damn. To adventure! The wounds.
To adventure! Your pelvis. Your clavicle. Your ribs.

One morning, while I was still in sleep,
you came to wake me, humming, and cupping
in your hands a dark and bitter delicious brew.
How I would love to come to you now
with something dark and delicious, something
I knew could make you smile, something
satisfying to warm you, rouse you, though we both
know how bitter it is.

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Cosi e’, se vi pare
(That’s the way it is, if it seems that way to you)
—Italian saying

Under my fingers,
the chords are familiar,
allegretto, in 2/4 time.
I lean into the ritardandos,
swelling the passing tensions,
failing to remember to exhale.
The lyrics, perhaps because
they are in German,
are beautiful. I can forget
that they speak of sleepless
nights and helplessness,
and dreams that languish
unfulfilled. My voice drifts
into the rafters. What
do I know of dreams?
There is so much I do not know.
Even this life I call my own.
What do I know of it?
Who taught them to sing,
the birds in autumn?
Who taught them to dance,
the leaves? Tonight, I do not see them,
the shadows my voice moves through
as I follow the staffs in front of me.
Nor do I think of translation. Nor
do I think of who is listening,
nor of who is not. For now,
there is Schumann and Heine,
there is this voice that is borrowing me,
there is this song that says
it must be sung.

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Two Simple-ings

still blooming
that apricot tree in my
rearview mirror


playing Schumann
for forty minutes
it’s the only news

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