The Music Director

[Howard and I exchanged several emails about this poem. I recalled Howard’s having written less than fondly about Herbert von Karajan, who, it seemed to me, serves as the model for “The Music Director.” And I’m right, he is. And yet I failed to remark the veiled glimpses of Hitler’s Germany. I took the poem at face value: as a nicely wrought portrait of a conductor at work. It’s a lot more effective as a reflection upon a terrible time. Ed.]

Howard Grady Brown

[March 2005.]


He raised his long baton to conjure sound.
His smile begat related minors. Mere
Extension of his hand transformed the air
Into a realm of infinite vibrations.
The woodwind sighs, the brassy proclamations —
All summoned with a glance. The bass drum, snare,
And timpani brought thunder, snarl, and fear
With every stab or thrust. The very ground

On which he took his stand was elevated,
Exalted: a position of command.
The Maestro, with complete authority,
Suspended time’s imperative. Elated
Technicians, marshaled, stormed the staves of grand,
Symphonic plan. A rapt majority

Surrendered reason, note by mortal note,
In willing prelude to a Liebestod.