The Blue Piano

“I cannot bring a world quite round,
Although I patch it as I can.”
Wallace Stevens

In the afternoon air the music is blue,
a sonata of Scarlatti as melancholy

as a leafless tree, scarred with snow
and catatonic against an unmoving sky.

Gone grief, so why does music speak
the triste elaborations of a lifeless day?

Maria Magdalena Barbara breathed hard
and played these notes that linger

in the room like words that cannot be
retracted, their palpable bruise

unseen as though inflicted
by a skilful torturing god.

Harmony’s lure and the
sage cryptography of song

inure us to the tragic
truth of music’s always being

blue at heart. It merely
comes and goes and no degree of

rage or long diminuendo
convinces us it lasts. Or only

long enough to break our hearts.



“Some souls are purgatorial by destiny.” D.H. Lawrence

The sheep crop ancient grass on hills
near Marshalltown, incontinent and dumb.
They slowly creep ahead, raising their eyes
as the need arises to gauge the changing sky
and keep a measured distance from one another.
Our car streams by a hundred yards away,
the babies gesturing at what they have no word for,
bleating in their own articulate babble.

Unprepossessing you might say the landscape is.
The highest hill around’s a thousand feet,
and rubble is the order of the day
no matter where you look: it’s fall and everywhere
the stubble of forgotten corn inters the feet
of foraging sheep. Even from a car you know
the air laments the heat of summer and loggy
flies whose very lives now seem a blessing.

The poet drives a Subaru and thinks of hamadryads,
flowing streams, and uncouth shepherds making
love in verse. What could be worse or further
from reality than lusting for Arcadia? It’s almost
hell to feel imagination’s off the mark
so laughingly beneath the tyranny of corn.
The sheep alone are patient, munching through
paradise lost or never thought of, sated

by the time the sun goes down and Venus
rises briefly in the sky, dim and low.
Amid the slow blandness of the coming
night, insane love lives on life support.
Exhaust fumes spreading across the fields
crinkle the noses of sheep and make us
crazy to get home, where love has a chance,
risky love, the love of last resort.