Ben Gunsberg: "Escape from Classical Music"




You can’t shake the conductor,

perched like a sunbird, his wand

feeding the universe order and precision,


nor competition for First Chair,

nor musicians seated in rows,

black dresses and tuxedos so alike,


like notes in Europe’s vast repertoire—

Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, also unknown

composers who lived long ago, unfinished


scherzos in their head. You can’t escape

the tympani’s blast, nor the piccolo 

who cries in the arms of a viola,


sounds like Vienna, 1945. Wagner’s coda.

You who sailed to another continent,

ears washed out by wind,


who stood on a salt-skimmed deck

like hollow reeds, fearing

drums and brass, groan of strings,


the drone of a bassoon

unresolved in the lowest register.


Ben Gunsberg is a professor of English at Utah State University.  His poetry appears in CutBank, Chattahoochee Review, South Carolina Review and other journals. His chapbook, Rhapsodies with Portraits, is published by Finishing Line Press.