Friday, March 29, 1991

VARIATIONS IN WHITE AND BLACK

       Language is the music of thought.
—  —Andrei Vosnesenski

The composer Satie, who ate only what was white
would've loved this cavernous room suspended from dark beams
with its white rug, walls and venetian blinds of white linen.
The hostess, the guests, even the keyboards of the baby grands
and our poems—all in variations of white and black.
Sighting down the vault created by the raised piano lids
snuggled in each other's curves like tired lovers,
Kirk and Marilyn play a four-handed improvisation
on Pachelbel's Canon in D. Dah dada dá dah-dum. . .  I think: gun barrel.
Just after the war we are overly sensitive to images of war.
Sasha, a Soviet vet who survived fire, reads about Afghanistan.
More piano wires taut around the slender necks of poems
of those who can never break free or go back:
Marilyn to Cuba, Oleg to the Ukraine, Sasha to his unscarred face.
We prepare to read translations, but because each line
requires a leap of faith from one image to the next,
we fine-tune them mid-air. Music is the mother of mathematics.
At one point, near the end of Haydn's Variations by Brahms,
the notes begin to merge, forming new ones like hawks mating mid-flight.
At the right moment a chorus of frogs joins in
but there's a hole in the sky; how do they measure time?
As the last note descends, it is silent; they say frogs
are the living barometers of the earth's health.
They say Gaia's final chorus will be silence in spring.
They say in some places it's already begun.
Where does a Möibius strip begin and end?
Sasha transliterates Kirk's name, and we are drunk on this music,
the sum of this defenseless layer of human culture.
Notes leaping over the small mossy stones in our ears
add up to a temporary respite from the shadows of raptors—
useless angels of the war, any war.
Even the frogs are listening to the Hallelujah Chorus.


3/29/91
Santa Rosa 1991 The Paper Sasha: Alexandr Karpenko