Seven Poems on Music

Beth Levin

[June 2005.]



we had eggs in an allnight deli
staggered early to the practice room
to memorize Brahms
jazzman listened outside the door
don’t know what he got out of it
you said, This is our youth
Now I crack open the eggs
picking shells from the pan


yes to a day of chores
a run into town
happy bird watching
a baked lasagna
one performance done
still more ahead
but today, yes to chores
a run into town


the tuning

he arrives on a three-wheeler
from the east side
a bag of instruments like a doctor
come to help a new mother
I make sure to brew coffee
ready odd supplies
towels, glue, a dust mop
I abuse my piano
never see to humidity
the cold, dirt play it to death use it as a pawn he will set things right today just make room, let him sprawl give him peace to listen then tap, maneuver shift, nuzzle, fidget conjuring the hidden tone


after a while I look down
the music wrapped around my hands
up my arm
over practiced it needs to
break out
I follow a while
retake control just at the edge


close your eyes to see colors
the hush of quiet space
a breath after phrasing
relief await the extra beat
the one most fulsome, deep
a sum of fragments
a process of guesses, clues
study a leaf
drink light
that is technique


see how his hands fly
say the old women
at six a prodigy
Leonard Shure

They send him to Schnabel
do as I say, dear boy
he takes it to heart
champions to the death
the rights of a single eighth note

others will compromise
expect him to play the game
His vision of beauty hard
the hard makes it good

one morning Beethoven is listening
hear how he takes care with my phrasing
at last a soul to match my music
I rest easy

the world never met his price
In the end his spirit ailed
Our dear Leonard Shure


John how we mourn you
you gave us your wit and wisdom
like a plant of deepest roots
you showed us only the flower

when we played you gave me free reign
because you were gracious
a man of noble gestures

your reserve was eloquent
now we are left to
nurse a tender wound
amid our sadness to love and respect
as anyone would the rarest gift

[John Daverio, musicologist,
author of Robert Schumann,
Herald of a New Poetic Age

dead at age 48]


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