Today's poem is by Floyd Skloot

Mendelssohn at Thirty-Eight

      "On 1 November 1847, Mendelssohn's condition rapidly
      deteriorated. He experienced the first of a series of strokes."
          —"The Mendelssohn Family" by John O'Shea

I look back on the promise of my youth
(Felix the fortunate) and am so tired.
A boy in auburn ringlets playing fugues
for old Goethe, a boy with liquid fire
in his hands! I glimpsed myself in glacier
wind and flood waters under the slender
Devil's Bridge. I loved the wild allegro,
the clack of trains, wind in a seaside cave.
Swiss sunlight, Monti Albani's sweet air,
Loch Lomond. I found music everywhere.
Now some mornings I am too weak to fold
back my bedsheets. There is nothing I crave
as much as silence. Not even pine trees,
the rich smell of old stones with moss upon
them, or the sight of snowy peaks would please
me. Quiet, like the moment before song
stretched out forever. Stillness, that instant
before strings quiver. This is what I want.

Ravel at Swim

     "The inability to communicate speech, writing or music
     when the peripheral nervous system is largely undamaged
     is called aphasia."
          —Maurice Ravel: Aspects of Musical Perception," by John O'Shea

Something dark has stolen the sea from me.
Always a seal in water, I found its
melodies and swam open harmony
through them. Now I flail. Nothing I do fits

the rhythms around me. Swiss Watchmaker
they called me for the design of my work.
Mere lover of wind-up toys, a baker
of sweets, as though elegance were a quirk.

Now the hand that holds forks by their tines floats
like driftwood on the sea of music spread
before me. It will not write down the notes
I hear like a gull's bent tones in my head.

It will not play what I see on paper
and know I wrote two years ago to be
performed one-handed. (That was a caper!
I loved having such limits placed on me.)

It will not sign my name. It tries to light
a match with the tip of a cigarette.
What is left? It took me eight days to write
a fifty-six word letter I have yet

to end, consoling a friend whose mother
just died. I do not want to be seen now
by anyone who knew me at another
time. Pure artifice, they said, missing how

my need for form affirmed the passions of
my heart. They must not see me with the link
from brain to limb severed and all I love
lost. Sheer formlessness surrounds me. I think

but cannot share my thoughts. I remember
every flower's fragrance, the taste of lamb
roasted for hours over charcoal embers
at summer bazaars, lips on mine, but am

powerless to express myself. Let me
be alone. Let me have the grace of pure
music in my head, where I hear and see
perfectly. That silence I can endure.

Spring Storm

     "What doesn't the wind lay claim to?"
          —Rainer Maria Rilke

Scarlet tulip petals strewn by last night's
winds litter the gutter. Their colors still
vivid in a driving rain, they begin
to gather themselves like flaps of torn skin
closing where the culvert rises. Uphill
a pen holds freshly shorn sheep huddling white
in the middle of a flock—drenched and gray
as the sky—that runs past them on the way
to their morning feed as though astonished
at surviving what turned their mates to ghosts.
The brilliant yellow field of rape where Rice
Lane bends west in this light seems swollen twice
its former size and the stripped dogwood hosts
a family of mountain quail banished
by the storm. I have been sick for five years.
Walking through such mornings eases my fears.

Copyright © 2002 Floyd Skloot All rights reserved
from Poppies
Silverfish Review Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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