Ten Poems

[Beth Levin, a regular La Folia contributor, concertizing pianist and chamber-music performer, has set two of her own poems, “Brooklyn” and “Sleeping Woman,” to music. They will be performed by mezzo Emily Howard at the Brooklyn Conservatory on September 12, 2004. Ed.]

Beth Levin

[August 2004.]



I can smell the in
k a bird in the snow
my thin bird feet
in the white meadow


I wake
Are these my own thoughts?
sleep my accomplice
the night my jailer
I don’t mean to contradict
such curious colors my dreams, such odors
Don’t argue — why quarrel with me?
I have a feel for the material
the touch, the pace
my nightgown is a garment conducive
to the creative flow
my bed a serene ark
I am too close to the painting
I catch a scent of the brushstrokes
break out in hives
I have always preferred rags to spun silver
How does one communicate with dust?
the older the ideas, the better
this is the morning of my sixth sense


If music and words
should collide
on a white white page
on a cold morning
after almost no sleep

If an impulse
should ignite action
one afternoon before lunch
the snow fall on a wave
creating a crystal beach

If a muse should walk in
sit on my bed and smoke
on an evening in June
calling up every daydream
of my youth
Please, please
disturb me


Dream Life

Words mean what I want them to
my profile belies my full face
I long for you to wash my hair
smoke and tell stories
Time lives in a bottle
my satisfaction is too easy
question the answers
radio mornings, dance to Ella
I’ll always make you lunch


Ragged nails
fingers curved from habit
opalescent knuckles
the skin, linen parchment
sun spot speckled
a desert tortoise
these are someone else’s hands
my first teacher had them


In the playing
inside a flock of notes
like a cerebral cortex
of the heart
the ear buzzes
feelers on alert ready
to follow, to fall in line
worker ants
at the service of a page


Practice Schedule

Monday canna
Tuesday won’t
Wednesday flee
Thursday return
Friday poise
Saturday rest
Sunday hope


The keyboard silent, waiting, waiting
the longest was two months in summer
the sea legato, time unmarked
but a hare’s sprint through the forest


The serene white page
now a line from here to here
your pen with uninterrupted élan
drew a pear
and upset my composure


I’m in here
heat pumping from the cellar
but out there
out there
how things roar


[More Beth Levin]