Sonnet by Elizabeth Bishop

I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling finger-tips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!

There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breadth, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.

on listening to old music

It is no surprise to anyone that music triggers emotions, memories, associations we would either relish or wish to avoid, and I must admit to punishing myself periodically by my choice of CDs I play. I once had over a thousand records and now my CD collection outnumbers that and so often I stare at the shelves without any thought in my head trying to pick something to kickstart the day or put the evening to bed. And this morning, after righting my scooter which was knocked over by the ferocious wind that blows here for the third time in two days, I decided I needed some oldtime memories of a different life, one I often contemplate on returning to in some fashion, and so I turned to the R’s: Tom Rush, Leon Russell, Tom Russell, Linda Ronstadt, and the Stones (that’s in Rolling for anyone who was born in a different universe than me) and, for some unexplained reason, Hall & Oates which was not in the R’s but lying on a bookcase waiting to be slipped into my DVD changer one day. Now that one started off the set which is probably why I went from lacing my coffee with Baileys to shots of Tullamore Dew chased down by ice cold water before the noon hour. Always a bad idea but since I do not work on Mondays anymore and thus have that day off, too, I figured whatever residue of whiskey still floating through my blood stream could not impair my judgment in anything other than deciding what to eat for dinner tomorrow since the broccoli my neighbor bought me yesterday at the open market pretty much handles that decision for today.

Anyway, back to music. These songs, these artists, bring back pictures in my mind, conversations long left unfinished ages ago drifting through what’s left of my memory, and I start dancing, of course, to Delta Lady and now, quite exhausted, the whiskey, you know, does do something to the stamina, but feeling quite conflicted, but not necessarily in a bad way, just in that way that regret mixed with remorse with a touch of satisfaction has on one’s sense of wellbeing. And I finally begin to understand why a certain Chinese poet has been talking to me of late through the centuries and think of Jeff Schwaner who has had similar conversations with a Chinese poet from the same dynasty and though I do not plan to resurrect my soulmate like he did, I have a deeper appreciation of his art, or I should say of their art, and thus have finally made up my mind to accept my comrade-in-arms Randy Signor’s suggestion of a reunion with Jimmy Powell before the three of us go to that darkness that awaits us all, and to take my place once again in the struggle I walked away from, and so will go stand in that wind right after I post this, barechested, barefoot, in just my sweatpants, and dare that creator who has unleashed this wind upon us here in Izmir, Turkey, to try and knock me over if He/She can.

Christmas in Izmir

I passed
on going to
a movie
in 3D
with strangers
set the table
with cauliflower
white wine
extra treats
for the cat
loaded music
on the DVD player
Sibelius Aaron Copland
Joshua Bell Sarah Chang
and Miles
Sketches of Spain
the ghosts
of Christmases
who joined me
and peace
in my heart
in Izmir
this Christmas

listening to Ella & Louis

it’s Gershwin’s birthday
Chuck tells me
so I listen to
Ella & Louis
singing They All Laughed
a decent red blend
from a Turkish winery
my feet up
those Polk speakers
doing their duty
in my living room
and no movies
this Saturday night
in Izmir
stuffed eggplant
Turkish style
sent over by Seçil
and I’m pleasantly full
getting numb
in the cheeks
and letting my mind
for you see
you can pronounce either
any way you want to
but kiddo
there are memories
worth preserving
and music
takes one there
Ella’s voice
Louis’ trumpet
to whomever’s listening
They Can’t Take That
Away From Me

Where Everything Is Music by Rumi

Don’t worry about saving these songs!
And if one of our instruments breaks,
it doesn’t matter.

We have fallen into the place
where everything is music.

The strumming and the flute notes
rise into the atmosphere,
and even if the world’s harp
should burn up, there will still be
hidden instruments playing.

So the candle flickers and goes out.
We have a piece of flint, and a spark.

This singing art is sea foam.
The graceful movements come from a pearl
somewhere on the ocean floor.

Poems reach up like spindrift and the edge
of driftwood along the beach, wanting!

They derive
from a slow and powerful root
that we can’t see.

Stop the words now.
Open the window in the center of your chest,
and let the spirits fly in and out.

translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne