I want to claim you.
I love the way you make the pines somber
And blind though I am
I too balance the leaning graves.
One night in Toronto twenty years ago I was awakened in a high-rise hotel by a drunk singing Puccini’s “Che gelida manina” with fierce passion. He wasn’t half bad. I could tell he was in his own darkened house. Soon enough a security guard turned up. I heard a radio crackling. The cop said: “OK, Caruso, that’s enough now!”
The real Caruso would have like that moment. He once said singing required sorrow. He said all true opera singers have suffering inside. Opera or not it’s true: we cannot bear disaster. In turn we live closed up or else we sing. I walk around and though I can’t see them I know the strangers surrounding me are cast down. Sometimes I hear them humming to themselves.
As the Swedish poet Gunnar Ekelof wrote: “you see your life for what it ought to be,/and ought to have been.”
I’m going to listen more.
I was alone but not unhappy. That was the thing. Wind up the Victrola, listen to incomprehensible words and musical notes. Sometimes hornets flew over my head. Was it Caruso who kept them away? Whatever the case the hornets never bothered me. The snick of the needle hit the outermost circumference of disk. The systolic static from the horn. One more second and the music starts.
I was a poet before I was a blind boy. There, I’ve said it. Bullies can go to hell.
Now and then one recalls hiding under the sink, playing with a wooden top.
In the woods bluejays and crows had a game which I studied every chance I had—they pretended to substantial bones.
And meanwhile darkness surrounded the eaves of the house…
Oh Schubert you are such a bother for you were perfect. Even as you died. You went out listening to Beethoven’s string quarter #14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 131. Your friend Holt commented: “The King of Harmony has sent the King of Song a friendly bidding to the crossing.” Never mind the syphilis, the mercury poisoning, the blackened teeth. The best I can say is “never mind” like the barn owl—“the moon is perfect, never mind” and never mind getting lost in perfection.
This is how it’s done. The clocks may or may not be sad. Leaving the world in C-sharp minor.
E is the only major in C-sharp minor, but you can’t leave on E alone. Departure requires several dark feathers.
When I was a boy I thought I heard a voice coming from inside a window. Just a small auditory hallucination on a slow summer day. Here’s to conversant glass in an old house.
When I play Schubert on the hi fi I’m calling him on the Schubert phone.
I know so little and so I’m uncomfortable. I should know more about the stars and the gods of other ages. I should certainly know more about card games.
Now. Schubert insists on the river flowing out of now. This is the core of what the critics in their heavy boots call “Romanticism.”
Here’s to the Schubert singing windows and the Schubert rivers.
I’m not important. What a relief.