The music is haunted;
the man is haunted;
the poem is haunted;

listen, you can hear it.

He heard the music of poetry and became the first poet of sound
to shatter the rigid musical illusions that surrounded him.
He said his religion was “natural” — others would label him wild,
without boundaries, both personal and musical.

This is the third poem about Achille-Claude Debussy.
The first two lost—the first by accident, the second by design.
To reach the soul of this music, the melody of the poem
must be haunted by that which is beyond grasp … .

His friends damned him,
his spurned lovers,
L’Académie des Beaux-Arts.

From the start he rebelled—no one would teach him
as he did not need to be taught. Instead, he would teach
the world new music, a new poetry of sound.

The professors at the L’Académie tried to block his admittance,
naming his music “bizarre.” It “courted the unusual”—savage,
against all accepted reason and rule.

No one could ignore his brilliance.

Object of censure, celebrity, scandal, first rock star,
anti-messiah, end of civilization and all that. Through it all
the shattering of the common place, the predictable
comfortable harmonies everyone was used to. Not this music
that played as if it were creating itself—and you, anew.

The shattering and the shattered. I think of Debussy
and ask myself, how can I create again?

If the poem is lost, I must
break it, shatter it, anew. If I cannot find the words,
I must surrender my ideas of right and wrong, if I cannot sing,
then I must sing what is missing, what does not belong,

find that chromatic moment that reveals its meaning
not in consideration, or contemplation of its utterance,
but by its wild hollow howl that fails to finish … that
dares you to complete what is nearly a perfect moment.


<This poem ends my seventh book, Numbers & Piano>