How to Practice During a Pandemic II

Beth Levin

[August 2020.]

Further In

Look at a page of music
as a space to breathe
dissect the voices see where they lead
as if you are a camel in the desert
and music eternity

Perhaps you’ve looked over
performances from the past
been interviewed even Zoomed a concert
Perhaps you’ve reached out for a future engagement
Now is the real process
a musical phrase an inhaling and exhaling of time
a lonely escapade

Let the slow new work begin to live
ask why and why of the music more often
the urgency of a recital date gone
but another urgency taking its place
one’s drives and demons propelling the work forward
into the unseeable, incalculable unknown


To play in strict time is bracing
no meandering off like a python out of its cage

“Keep the left hand steady
said my teacher
slacken a bit in the right”
a subtle direction
at twelve I knew the idea must be felt
in the body

Some days you just need latitude
notes in the margin crossed out
a furtive amble away from the tour guide
a hidden escape clause

The trick is keep the underpinnings solid
a left hand of resolve
allowing for creative fluctuation


There was a time I’d decide whether
to jump Double Dutch in front of the house
or in the back alley

Once I climbed a tall Sumac
got lost in the hilly park grass of Fairmount
lay down and took a nap

Time was a pomegranate
its seeds popping
rich dark red

Time the ropes
looping upward, lapping, interlocking
a sine wave in air

The aroma—the ripest melon—
inhabits me as I lace my shoes


[Paul Klee, Abstract Trio, 1923,]

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