Quarter Rest with Fermata
for Richard R. Schantz
On this day
in the Weih-nocturne glow
of this roomful
the real augmented by reflection
time isn’t ordinary.
Right on cue
(you always said to anticipate
entrances in light of narrative)
there you are
by your crystal fountain, posing
(your Sprechstimme unequivocal
still strictly, stubbo
You extend, generously
up and down, up and down
cleaning Nadia’s windows
this warm, warm winter’s night.
As sounds surround
a furtive tear
surplus, not sorrow
sourced, single origin
as you bounded con brio
through the unfound door
into every room
every Lydian measure.
Such ravish’d sense
isn’t heritable, surely
but I’m a poster child
ear training as equipment for living.
So when the needle drops
and the trio’s tonic center shifts
the subduction of memory and moment
is gut-seizing, pelagic
the psalter’s plainsong
now impossibly appassionato
the original inconstant to this exuberance
and when the quartet quickens
weaving, on the octave
a quarrel of words into wunder-bars
of such sweet discord
the canon ingathers a lifetime
But here’s the rub
the music isn’t in the notes.
So when, finally
the moment arrives
too good to name
but calling me by mine
you tried to make sure I’d be there
will we recognize it for what it is
will we have the time for it
infinite, ecstatic, legato con amore
before pardon is asked
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Musical references in the poem
Line 1: “On this day” from “Personent hodie” by Gustav Holst
Line 11: “crystal fountain” from “Hard by a Crystal Fountain” by Thomas Morley
Line 12: “unanswered question(s)” from “The Unanswered Question” by Charles Ives
Line 13: “d’arte,” “d’amore” from “Vissi d’arte,” “Tosca” by Giacomo Puccini
Line 18: “up and down, up and down” from “Fair Phyllis” by John Farmer
Line 20: “cleaning Nadia’s windows” refers to the following quote from Nadia Boulanger: “I’d go so far as to say that life is denied by lack of attention, whether it be to cleaning windows or trying to write a masterpiece” (from Mademoiselle: Conversations with Nadia Boulanger by Bruno Monsaingeon, Carcanet Press, 1985).
Lines 21-22: “spotless” this “winter’s night” from “A Spotless Rose” by Herbert Howells (with a bit of climate change), with a nod—“still,” “night”—to “Stille Nacht” by Franz Gruber
Line 24: “furtive tear” from “Una Furtiva Lagrima,” “L’elisir d’amore” by Gaetano Donizetti
Line 29: “unfound door” from “Prelude for Voices” by William Schuman (from Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel)
Line 30: “du bing, du bang” from “Warm-Up”, “Mass” by Leonard Bernstein
Line 32: “Lydian measure(s)” from “Softly Sweet,” “Alexander’s Feast” by George Frideric Handel (from “Alexander’s Feast; or, the Power of Music” by John Dryden)
Line 33: “ravish’d sense” from “With verdure clad,” “The Creation” by Joseph Haydn
Lines 39-44: Piano Trio No. 2 in C minor, IV. Allegro Appassionato by Felix Mendelssohn
Lines 45-50: the canon quartet “Mir ist so wunderbar” from “Fidelio” by Ludwig van Beethoven
Lines 53-54: “when, finally the moment arrives” from “Giunse alfin il momento,” “Le Nozze di Figaro” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Line 55: “too good to name” from “T.G.T.T.” (or “Too Good to Title”), “Second Sacred Concert” by Duke Ellington
Line 60: the pause (quarter rest with fermata) just before “Contessa perdono,” “Le Nozze di Figaro” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
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