Life With Horace

poetry & essays


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haiku for a friend with notes

see each forward step
my own not for another
true gift of friendship

____________________________
The way forward for a friend sometimes seems clear to me, but not for them. The hard thing is to step back, find the wisdom to make changes in my own life, and let them work it out. They already know that I care.


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clear sailing

there is no more fog
and I am soaring
through these brilliant stars
above a clean swept sea,
memory reclaimed at last.
even as I leave you,
going on alone for now,
winglike glowing tendrils
wrap me in their light and warmth,
strands of our shared time
that can never break.

there will always be
a part of me alive,
held in your hearts
or seen among the trees,
joy fanned by wagging dogs,
an artist’s brush,
the feel of things well built,
soil deep tilled,
good stories told,
the pop of corks,
sure handed trimming
of a wind filled sail,
upright honor, honesty,
deep rooted, long felt love.

even as the world around me
faded for a time,
and I seemed lost,
a quiet spark lived in my soul
fanned by the breath of love,
my anchor in this final storm,
and in its light I knew you all.

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for William Eastman Janes, a cherished friend who set sail and left us this morning. crabtown won’t be the same without you Bill. vaya con dios.


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where it lands

precious drops of rain
rest in a scoop,
their surface
flinging hints of
life collected there
back to observant eyes,
their mass a seamless joining.

there is no certainty
of friendship as we meet,
no formula to join
both like and opposite
to make a whole.

recognition, kindred
souls, kindness
melding without seam,
like bits of nurture
from the sky,
these form a precious bond,
only if we allow ourselves
a look, a breath,
and see its landing place

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friendship often seems a purely random thing, but it is necessary to be open to it, wherever it is found. sometimes it presents itself smack in our face, not to be ignored. this poem is for two dear friends I have known for but a year and yet forever, both Deborahs, who celebrate their birthdays this month.


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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!