Friday, February 4, 2011

Music Lesson

Forty old people, arranged around rectangular tables

in a rectangular room with black and white squares

on the floor.

Today's speaker has a microphone next to which he

stands so close that every “p” makes an unwanted

punctuation of amplified air.

He talks so fast that “program music” sounds like prora

music, something new and perhaps extraterrestial that

we are just now finding out about

in this angular room, early in the 21st century.

But no, we are learning about music in the mid-

nineteenth century, long before even the oldest old

person in this room was born,

long before our parents or even grandparents were born.

The speaker puffs into the microphone about piccolos and

preludes, and the old people are polite, their papery

faces inscrutable.

We listen to the river, beginning very quietly as two

streams, high in the mountains of Austria.

Some cannot hear the beginning at all, but they do better

when the two small streams become one big sound,

and white heads bob up and down,up and down.

The river leads us past a wedding party with dancers,

and into a night scene of dark currents and a moon and

perhaps some magic.


warns the speaker, his glasses glinting.

And sooner than we expected, but

we did know, he intones “The Rapids” and no one is


Forty old people, still attentive, still inscrutable, past the

rapids now,  sit in the rectangular room

and listen to the river disappear from sight.


  1. I love this poem, Sharon---it reminds me of Billy Collins' stuff. And the sentence full of P-words was absolutely delicious. I could hear all those little microphone percussive P-pops.

    Well done!

  2. Very nice; an incredibly well painted picture.

  3. Gosh, you guys. Thanks! I'm still fanning myself after being compared to BC, my idol.

  4. that was wonderful, it was Smetena's The Moldoul (sp?). I studied it years ago, I can hear it now.