By Jane Hirschfield
[read this poem at the New Yorker web site]
By Emilio DeGrazia
Those few who come to love The Life,
Their only one, singular,
Learn from the trees, the way
Branches and leaves permit
The airs to pass through,
And from the waters that make way
For powers deeper than the currents
That through fingers and lips
Translate the rhythms, trills and grave chords
Of the heart, its waves, wildfires and dreams.
These few know they are music’s instruments,
The pen in their hands and its words
Like the conductor’s body and baton,
Their hands on keys releasing
The tones in their golden horns,
Not theirs but The Life’s.
By Emilio DeGrazia
What words of objection can a father air
When a daughter abandons his grand old piano
To become consort of a new French Horn?
She, whose hands might have made
Salons resonate with categorical imperatives
Sounding the pure reason of her whims.
Debussy now stands jilted in cold rain,
Recalling how her fingertip touch
Sent shivers over his skin.
For she is dark goddess now,
Queen of gleaming serpent and circled womb,
Mermaid in chambered nautilus
With blossoming conch and golden ear.
What is she making of herself
From the blood and guts her horn of plenty
Sounds through speechless lips?
The lovely music her hands
Once unlocked with the piano keys
Now gathers in her breast
Where love, beauty and the hunt
Sink and soar with the winds.
THE MUSIC IN THE PARK
(A selection from Threnody, unpublished)
By Emilio DeGrazia
“The music in the park––just think of it.”
They sit on Morrie’s deck sipping wine,
Their silences meandering downstream
As the sun sets on the silver water
Shimmering with the wine’s deep purple hues.
Morrie’s gaze is distant as he speaks,
His words barely audible, as if
He too listens for whisperings not his own.
“What makes us gather there, the audience,
All of us violating routines
To take up space on a hard park bench
So we can hear an amateur band
Blare its tunes out of an old bandshell?
We all know someone at the scene––
Neighbor or friend, trombone or clarinet,
Some cousin’s son banging away on drums,
So yes, we come because it is our thing,
Most of us strangers being neighborly,
Proud of ourselves, our place, our name,
Making community out of accident of birth.
But when the music begins what keeps us still,
Enforces the silence the music requires of us?
It’s not how good or bad the music is,
Too loud, blurry, lagging behind a beat.
I saw, in the middle of the pack,
A lovely brown-haired girl and her French horn,
Her face smiling but sad, perhaps too pale
Against the golden horn encircling her,
How she breathed her soul into that horn
When the trumpets carrying the melody
Made her background sounds invisible,
But then, when the music peaked she rose
On the strength of a deep high note
And soared away with it into the air
Above the melody, the crowd, the trees––
Took us away with it, held us still,
As if this teenage girl were a mermaid
Luring us over heavy ocean waves
With the baleful soundings of her conch.
Oh she was pleased with that high wild flight––
Smiled at a boy trumpeter nearby
And sent his heart flying away with hers.
So think of it––almost nobody knew
The note was hers, came from her breast,
And few heard the individual parts
That grounded the sound, gave it power of flight,
The tuba’s low foghorn bursts muted
Behind the undercurrent of the bassoon
On which the flutes were gliding along.
Everyone playing a part, no one
The whole, the melody a collage
Of partial voices sounding their small roles
Like mimes masking their true identities.
Where are the players when they play––
The father, teacher, student with a name,
Address, history and bank account?
Lost in the senseless sounds they make
We call music because it is not noise.
They keep showing up to rehearse––
Not because they’re paid. They are not.
Because of their desire to master noise,
Senseless arbitrary sounds, ugly
Because they violate the harmony,
Order, beauty and truth in their hearts.
They do not know this about themselves,
And shy away from speaking publicly
Except through their chosen instruments.
What they know occurs when they’re a herd,
The band, the music when well-played not Them
But somehow It, apart from themselves,
And meaningless, no moral to their tale,
No words, and still a beautiful truth.”