Monday, June 12, 2017

En plein air - in memoriam Andrew Bellon

A dreamless sleep falls
from the shimmering leaves.

--Sappho fragment, tr. Andrew Bellon

I changed,
deepened, traveled,
mused by pools,

crumbled, stretched,
tilled fields of clouds,

nearly died,
chased the acorn of light,
and was chased out of chaos.
Tangled with the hierarchies.

Walked beyond the walls of a day
with a heart in shards.

I orbited

got lost on a river
with the moon.
my fall.

I drifted in the white noise
of passing years
with the airborne seeds.

Half an hour,
half a life,
What's the difference?
Time's arrows are spent.
A crone crow laughs
by the roadside palmetto,
laughs at my incompetence.
What use are words
when the true language
of mystery
is silence?

--Andrew Bellon, 2014

When I heard of the recent  passing of Andrew Bellon, I went out to the garden for a ponder.  

 An intermittent breeze wandered through the valley, catching the leaves just before they fell into a hazy doze. A dappled emerald canopy blurred the alabaster trunks of the birch trees. 

In the air-castles of my imaginings, Andrew has not truly gone, but has merely flown further along his journey into an ethereal enigma beyond the current reach of our senses. My deepest condolences go out to his loved ones. 

 I dedicate this small virtual space, populated though it is by ones and zeroes in lieu of flowers, to the memory of this contemporary writer, whom I respected as a poet, as an aesthete, and as a genuinely kind man. 

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods nor sigh-tempests move....

--John Donne

Tim Buck expressed a subtle appreciation of the writing of Andrew Bellon in a post in Spectral Lyre in 2015: Poet Andrew Bellon and the Eternal Season

If you have either sung, or savored, the Rachmaninoff hymn Bogoroditse Devo, you might enjoy this endeavor of the Robert Shaw Festival Singers, directed by Robert Shaw in 1989. I'd like to think Andrew would have enjoyed it. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Rachmaninov Concerto No.2, Op.18 (Sviatoslav Richter, 1959)

In Richter's hands, the musical score breathes, crouches, pounces, leaps into the air, and lands deftly, without losing a note of wild-ness.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

I know a cure (Mirabai)

I know a cure for sadness:

Let your hands touch something that

makes your eyes


I bet there are a hundred objects close by

that can do that.

Look at

beauty's gift to us-

her power so great she enlivens

the earth, the sky, our


Mirabai (c. 1498-1550)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

and then he said

That evening, I was perched on the edge of my chair, tapping away on Tanya's keyboard, ignoring his presence on purpose. I was avoiding any attempt to appear attractive. I could have been wearing a lampshade, for all I cared. And he probably felt much the same. 

Out of curiosity, and for the sake of politeness, I inquired shyly if he had a favorite word. There was a bit of a cynical spark of acuity to him. 

And then he said --

However, in decent circles like this, you see, I can't repeat what he said. It was an off-color phrase consisting of 10 cryptic syllables, muttered in ironic iambic pentameter. 

What? -- I asked, unsure if i had heard him correctly --

And then he said it again.

It was a clap of thunder mixed with the honking of a flock of geese returning to their nests.  It was the musty scent of the soil after the snow has melted. It was the pungent and tender new needles on the tips of the spruce branches. It was the brash defiance of a man who had spent the bulk of his life with the chill of an Arctic wind nipping at his up-turned collar. It was the mother-tongue. 

I giggled. 

I don't know how he did it, it must have been a secret of his trade unknown to outsiders, a singular talent, like the ability to defuse a bomb. It was the sort of obscenity that might have distracted Amaterasu from her grief long enough to crack open the cave door. 

I had not expected him to be so dangerously funny. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

a light

A LIGHT exists in spring
  Not present on the year
At any other period.
  When March is scarcely here
A color stands abroad         
  On solitary hills
That silence cannot overtake,
  But human nature feels.

--Emily Dickinson

(Let us take a bit of poetic license for this latitude, and substitute April for March.

Among the trees, a golden rumor swirls -- )

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

music: consciousness, conscience

A wintry night. Huddled in the foothills against the cold, the forest exhales in silence. 
The moon blinks. I hear a rustling: the cat is stalking shadows in the darkness.

I open my eyes before the alarm squeaks. The birds have not yet risen. Before I begin my busy-work, I want to gather myself. No, I do not yet want words.

I scan the vault in search of solace.

Rachmaninoff's Vocalise, sung by Anna Moffo, comes to my aid. An arc of sound, a silken breath, a bridge of dusk and dawn; its melody unfurls in a slow streaming.

Antonina Nezhdanova, for whom Rachmaninoff's Vocalise was written

Another memorable performance of Vocalise is that of Mstislav Rostropovich. This is a different  mood.

It would be difficult to imagine the music scene in the 20th century without the style, passion and talent of Rostropovich. In this recording (admittedly, the audio quality may not be the best), he demonstrates how well he knew the voice, through his cello. Other recordings of Vocalise exist, where Rostropovich accompanies his wife, the singer Galina Vishnevskaya, on piano, but I prefer this one. 

I came across a moving tribute to Rostropovich, "The Musical Conscience," which reminded me how many countries can now lay claim to have been a home to Rostropovich: born in Azerbaijan, he lived in Orenburg and other parts of the Soviet Union, including Moscow, until his exile abroad. 

I was also reminded of his profound human decency: when he heard that the writer Solzhenitsyn was living in a place without heat, Rostropovich invited the dissident to stay in his warm dacha. This was not looked upon kindly by the establishment.

In 1974, Rostropovich was forced to leave his homeland with his cello and his dog, but he never abandoned his music, or his humanity. What a disarming personality!

A pure, clear tone pierces the air behind my house: it is a sparrow, singing farewell to the pearlescent half-moon as it sails behind the mountains in a sea of powder-blue.

And it is a good morning.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

I am hiding even from myself, whispers the rose, under three feet of snow.

But I know you are there, even so, I reply.

The moon remembers the petals that fell like scarlet tears in the frost.

And with each sunrise and sunset, the nearest star sings the language of color nearer and nearer to blossoming.

Verses develop, like stars and like roses,
Like beauty -- unneeded in the family.
And there is to wreaths and apotheoses,
But one answer: from whence do they come?

We sleep -- and lo, through the stone tiles
Appears a heavenly guest with four petals.
Oh world, perceive! The singer in a dream discerns
The law of the stars and the formulas of the flower.

--Marina Tsvetaeva

Стихи растут, как звезды и как розы,
Как красота – ненужная в семье.
А на венцы и на апофеозы –
Один ответ: – Откуда мне сие?

Мы спим – и вот, сквозь каменные плиты,
Небесный гость в четыре лепестка.
О мир, пойми! Певцом – во сне - открыты
Закон звезды и формулы цветка.

--Марина Цветаева

Zia Nath, dancing. 

En plein air - in memoriam Andrew Bellon

A dreamless sleep falls from the shimmering leaves. --Sappho fragment, tr. Andrew Bellon I changed, thickened, ...

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