Archives for posts with tag: Numbers & Piano

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>


the only man who could drawl on a piano
slur of the hands across the keys and presto
women weak at the knees

somebody help me please

‘cause I got nothing, No, nothing
except this easy playing rain
got to be travelling, woah, travelling
‘til I play away this pain

come Monday morning
still playing the same
hands running, rippling
I’m goin’ to rip the rhythm from this frame

still I got to travel
just to pay, woa-oo-ohoh-woaww-oh
another moment’s heart beat—
on this keyboard of mine

mmm hmmm

vibraphonic ecstasy
limit of harmony
pound on the upholstery
remind me you know
what of ebony and ivory
essential time of the stream
ineluctably, serenely, meanly
map the motion of bop a wopwop shoobop
insolently, insouicantly, hip-cat-o-
doh-ray-mah, Mr. Jam for me
where does the bop in shoowop go
after the show s’what I want to know—
what I got to know this cat explains patiently
disappears behind his curtained smile
signs Mysterioso.

Oh, so, you’re jiving me.
I knew that.

someone to be proud of
someone who makes you proud to be around a piano
a round of piano that walks you through it
walks you through it, runs you through it,
takes you through the work out and out to its beyond
someone who makes you proud to be part of it, someone
defining deifying dynamic breakers of infinite
rhythm, geometry, bowling the spheres across the Platonic
ideal of perfect lawn framed by formal marbles
arches, fountains, artfully built grottoes and caprices
transports you to the meaning of the new land
someone to be proud of, someone who makes you proud

name your river
I’ve played it

When you take the A train, be sure to tip the conductor.
Hear that? … a song of the caravanserai drifts in from the desert —
listen how the front row, all brass and horn, the back row
rhythm and bass, are nothing but the keyboard beneath
that plays in a sentimental mood as if that hue of indigo
can be summoned just like that. Sophisticated, lady
he laid the foundation of cool and made modern new,
like it was just before a kiss, the very first time.

“Humbly, I am the river.”

Counterpoint doesn’t cover it,
unless you rag, spackle, boogie it
with the barrel roll, classical riff,
set free, dodge right, dodge left,
Mayor of Dodge City, all 88 citizens.

Always, the spring of life is melody.
You return from your extended tour
to show us the rag and the bone,
ebony and ivory, the house and
how you make it a home —where the
music is built, how you make it
into a jazz, more than jazz, the jazz;
others named it — you proclaimed it.

this ladder, this stair before us
invites us to rise, not climb,
fly, not allow Fate, fury, nature
make our feet drag, instead
we march, dance, rejoice that
we can see into things

the storm’s name is Ludwig and he
makes the world anew again, greater, brighter,
more passionate for he cannot stop arising

marches, dances,
prances, gymnast
demonstrates power,
agility, flexibility,
grace, endurance;
all within the scale of beauty

stacked harmonies inform everything in Mozart.
running thirds, then again in their inversions;
the constant transformation of melody through transposition
he is a trampoline artist who mid-leap catches your eye

sugar with substance, sensual wine you can live upon;
these words are not enough—
not enough complement to song and substrate,
not rare spirit fine enough to catch gossamer lightness,
instant intoxication and the exultation of the intoxicated

it is drunkness not of the soul, but of music
Mozart plays and enjoins us, effortlessly

so many others offer us joy, play and delight
but first you must climb to them, work for them,
wish with them, and, in some small fashion, surrender

Mozart is a six year old who makes you part of the game
without asking—he demands nothing in return but fun
and drama and light and dark and all the proper ingredients
for delicious thrills, love, enjoyment, entrapment; the wealth
of all imagination, there are no riches he does not possess;
he helps himself to the treasury and scatters it before us,
let us take what we wish, or stop to enjoy for a moment
how the emeralds, pearls, rare and semi-rare jewels
conjoin, entwine with golden hurl; the casual fashion
in which he throws it before us, invites us to share
his flute of champagne

it does not matter to Mozart,
he welcomes each of us over and
over again—with more, always more

Bach makes the frame. All out. All in.
In fact, he doesn’t sketch at all –
he makes the rules. He is not
composing the Well Tempered Clavichord –
he is writing equations, sequences,
occasions, dazzling sequins that define
the fashion, the millinery, the mannequin
He is the triumph of what will come
without showing a stitch.
We ache for melody so much
we cannot help but sing Ave Maria
as if it weren’t already there;
each prelude, each fugue,
tempts us to burst into song
as another lesson plays on.

<this begins the last section of my book Numbers & Piano. Ten poems for poets of the piano. Ten you say? How odd.>

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