V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics





1.  Johann Christopf Bach

I heard my brother drifting through the night. 
But I did nothing.  I believed it was only 
a dream, little more than my own fears 
given form by troubled sleep.  Ghosts, 
I thought, do not move so idly, even the green 
ghosts of one's parents.  But I did nothing.

When our mother died I prayed our father 
would marry.  Within the year he did. 
For a time, then, I was free to worry about 
keeping the people of St. Michael in song, 
and my own first son breathing the sweet 
air of Ohrdruf.  Back in Eisenach, I heard, 
my young brothers thrived in their new 
family, their home again always in song. 

But before another year passed, as though 
choked by thwarted mourning, father joined 
our mother once more.  And my brothers were 
with me.  Jacob soon left, a man already 
at fourteen, and day by day Sebastian sank 
further into silence.  He was only ten when 
I heard him become a spirit of the night. 

Turning back to my wife's soft form, 
I sought to forget those shadowy sounds. 
Come morning, I found myself caught 
again in the snares of work and prayer,
burdened as I was by choirs to conduct, 
students to teach, hospital and castle 
chapels to serve, two shabby organs 
to tend and holiday melodies to compose. 

2.  Johann Sebastian Bach

I was lost until the music found me 
where I wandered the timeless night, 
drawn to my brother's grillwork cabinet only 
to see those manuscripts lit by moonlight. 
But seeing was not enough.  I was lost 
until the music found me and how could 
I leave it there?  As in a dream I crossed 
a rush of moonlight softening the wood 
floor and drifted close.  It was there.  I thought 
if I could copy what my brother had 
copied, then the music would not be lost 
as my parents had been lost.  I was glad 
to save the music that was saving me 
note by note, melody by melody. 

3.  Johann Christopf Bach 

Spring mornings I heard Sebastian humming 
familiar melodies.  The soft sound baffled me 
at first, like a breeze made song.  I was pleased 
to see my brother smile.  My wife's glance 
was pure joy since the boy was growing so 
light.  As April worked its way toward May, 
I began to recognize Sebastian's repertoire. 
He was humming a measure from Froberger! 

The only place Sebastian could have come 
to know the tune was in my grillwork cabinet, 
the book of clavier pieces copied as instruction 
from my teacher Pachelbel.  Rare pieces by Kerll 
and Krieger, Nivers and Witt.  I saw nothing 
was missing there, but feared a second copy 
would spoil the value of my own.  Sebastian 
was not himself in this deed and I mourned 
the need to discipline a deeply grieving child. 
Besides, I had grown used to his fugue of night
noises.  Yet I knew I must lock the book away. 
It was mine to protect, as Sebastian was mine 
to protect, and the curled edges of delicate 
paper exposed his secret as clearly as the music 
coming from his mouth.  What would he learn 
of life if I failed to punish willful disobedience? 

It broke my heart to hear him silent once 
again, unwilling even to sing in the choir. 
He tinkered with the broken organ pipes 
and pedals, but denied the town his sweet 
soprano voice.  I thought to give him time. 
I thought he would be unable to bear a life 
without music giving form to all he lost. 

4.  Johann Sebastian Bach

It did not matter where the music went. 
Moonlight, and notes in their field of clear white 
space, melodies filling the mind and heart 
as time and heavenly light filled the night 
sky, until I knew nothing would be lost. 
As long as music floated like the ghost 
of faith in the air around me I might 
be safe.  I would go where the music went.

© by Floyd Skloot


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