nthposition online magazine

Poetic Circe, Concerto in A Flat & Opera bluffs


[ poetry - december 12 ]

Poetic Circe

As soon as you start musing in her cove
she jumpstarts first your heart and then your brain,
constraining them to cede your treasure trove
of cerebrating seamen she can train
to populate the fauna of her realm.
With rhythmic incantations she can change
a journeyman in ways that overwhelm
his senses till his porcine needs estrange
him from his reason. Snorting at the trough,
he digs for truffles filled with reverie.
Nor will the sorceress exact enough
until she consummates her revelry
in physical translations of conceits
begun with measured, metabolic beats. 


Concerto in A Flat

I think Iím composing a concerto
for piano and orchestra. In fact,
cowed by the public, Iím improvising
the keyboard part. My halting snippet
of a tune progressed sotto voce,
muffled by the beat of ominous drums
which I oppose with harsh, staccato chords.
Where once I sought the broad, romantic line
now I settle for melodic patches.
Soon I lose the key Iíd been working in
amidst the thunderous cacophony
unleashed by the rush of blustery winds.
I wonít mention the surprising stridence
of once civil strings marshaled by the din.
I press on the pedal to hear the notes
resound, start losing my cool. Never mind
the audience marking my performance!
Itís not the piece that I started to write
before I had to heed market constraints
and the stern baton of the conductor.
But I donít care. Experts fathom the plight
of creators; the rest suffer the just
measure of their ignorance. I compose
in order to be faithful to the piece.
Still, my metric muse senses somethingís wrong.

What happened to rapt motives I began
with? Do fans recall such lush harmonies
when I hammer the keyboard in response
to that percussive swell? Or will they think
Iím mad? Indeed. Habit deadens my nerves
along with raising my auditory
threshold, till Iím addicted to fortes,
not to speak of mind-numbing interludes.
Oh! Nasty critics love to disparage
what theyíre slow to understand. They protest
such clamorous discord. Some of them hissed
me off stages promoting philistines.
But connoisseurs know that real artists forge
their handiwork amidst severe hardship.
And they acknowledge the difficulty
of our craft even if they donít laud it.
Meanwhile, Iím left with a brief cadenza
nearing the end of the second movement.
For the rest, I hope I salvage something
before my instrumentís banged completely
out of tune. And then I can only guess
at the criticism awaiting me.
Thatís why Iím leaving out my signature
and cede responsibility or claims
that Iím the author of this potboiler. 


Opera bluffs

Are patrons who watch opera at the Met
enthralled by music or by curtain calls?
Why else applaud the curtain as it falls,
when chordal resolutions havenít yet
achieved the main part of that grand duet
of sight and sound? No tom who caterwauls
will purr until the catís mew that enthralls
him stops. He heeds no backdrop sun thatís set.
Then why do fans erupt into applause
before the tonic chord concludes an act?
The tone deaf see the visual as cause
of all that made their viscera react.
In fact, I wish their tract contractions pause
just long enough to keep the work intact.

Does one applaud clarion trumpet calls
mid-scene in an Elizabethan play
before the dramatist has had his say?
Of course, the theater curtain never falls
before the closing dialogue enthralls
the enraptured listener. In this way
the fanís swayed by catharsis to delay
his dispatch of enthusiastic squalls.
But why not give Puccini the respect
accorded playwrights and the written word?
Donít unresolved tonalities affect
rapt listeners much more than words not heard?
In Europe, fans sit frozen to collect
themselves - with bliss, instead of chords, inferred.