Life With Horace

poetry & essays


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not quite endings

the music stopped, shimmering
in dust beamed space
our voices stilled
waiting for the flood of response
I fall into the silence
all energy given away
to singing’s singular joy

what I thought was love
ok it was, no holding back
died, stabbed and poked
to rubble not worth picking through
a lucky escape it turns out
in time to save my heart
and savor all that’s left

a long goodbye jumps the queue
to sudden extinction
love lives on the mountain
ashes soaking into moss
his spirit coming back
to say that 40 years were
worth it all in all
and how are things?

the chatter quieted thank god
and in its place
a single sound takes shape
one note clearly formed on endless breath
much to my delight I find
it comes from me
I had been singing all along
and never knew

_________________________________
a prompt from tonight’s writing group with Doug Anderson: endings


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aftermath

all eyes as one
single voices
become
this great body
balanced on
a razor thin
tipping point
we sing
full throat
to ecstasy
the music stops
I fall into
the abyss of silence
tears flowing

__________________________________
the moment after the end of a great piece. for Cailin Manson, who took us there.

beauty of white against dark green


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litany

what don’t I remember?
my collier brother brain
hoards words and time
with colors joining hands
to sing their song

I don’t remember
any moment spent
without a color wash
intensity of thought

I don’t remember
understanding those who hate
preferring to destroy
instead of build

I don’t remember
living days or nights
without a music counterpoint
embers into torches lighting memory

I don’t remember
sunsets painted on the undersides
of clouds or nature come to flower
without feeling joy almost to tears

______________________________________
A leftover prompt, from Day 29. Things remembered, and what they weren’t.


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corpus musicorum

to sing with my friends
brings joy to those
who hear us
but shoulder to shoulder
we who give voice
have earned
the greater gift
we stand inside
the living body of music
connected by
sublime resonance

_____________________________
Day 9. A shortling about the gift of singing in a group. Day 9. The words wanted my attention, but not for very long!


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the thrum

chords reach in with certainty
fingering my waiting bones

sometimes as undulating touch,
wispy fog that knows no barriers

gently casual hands on shoulders
arms outstretched announcing their intentions
patient for response.

then there are other passages of notes
roaring by on chariots of glory,

powerful as basso lama horns
thrumming from dharamsala
straight to the chambers of my soul,

until waves of tears
escape to fold me into beauty,

ebbing only slowly,
limpet companions to the day


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the piano duo

My godmother, Anne Hull (left) and grandmother, Mary Howe, about 1920. They were both pianists and composers, and performed together as a piano duo from 1912 until 1935. They met at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore in 1905, when my grandmother was studying piano with Ernest Hutchinson. She later returned to the Peabody (with the full support of her husband) to study composition with Gustav Strube, gaining her diploma in 1922. She was active musically until the early 1960s, an internationally recognized composer, and a founder of the National Symphony.

Anne was studying for an Artist’s Diploma and Teaching Certificate. She had a rich musical life, never married, teaching first at The Institute of Musical Art in New York, and later The Juilliard Graduate School, retiring in 1968 at the age of 80!

Friends for the rest of their lives, they did extraordinary things in a world that sometimes considered them dilettantes (they weren’t) and not to be taken seriously (they were).

My grandmother’s unequivocal take on being a woman composer, circa 1950:

“Women composers should be played more than they are. I don’t think conductors have a prejudice against women composers now. But no one puts women writers or women painters in a class any more and they still do with women composers. I know I considered it a handicap to be a woman when I started composing. I’m not a feminist. But I think I would have gotten along faster if I’d been a man.”

I generally admire her pieces, and think her art songs were her strongest. She knew many poets, and read poetry voraciously. Her friendship with the poet Elinor Wylie, whom she met at the MacDowell Colony, is a story in itself. A particular favorite of mine is her setting of Wylie’s poem “When I Died in Berners Street”. I have been working on it with my voice teacher, and like to think she would appreciate the effort, if not the result!