Thursday, April 19, 2007

Several nights ago, I was invited to have drinks with two literary ladies from the concert series I run, Helicon. Now sharing an apartment on the Upper East Side, they met during the first half of the last century, teen agers at art camp. ("Oh, She was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen," beamed one. "I could never forget her," the other responded, "she read her own poems, published at the age of 14. I couldn't believe it.") Their current arrangement was brokered only because of a chance meeting in Central Park about six years ago. Isn't this the signal dream of all New Yorkers: around the next corner is possibility, our life could change forever and for the better? Fulfillment and footsteps, East Side West Side, we keep searching the sidewalks.

Both are women of letters with important books published and impressive academic careers. We had cocktails. Lillet or martinis, you choose. They were kind enough to read two poems I'd written. I'm an oboist, not a poet, so I don't write many, but I do enjoy dabbling. I'm an amateur in the true sense of the word. I mentioned that I wrote primarily for myself, and we talked about a poem's life as an act of contemplation. "A poem can be patient, but prose demands an audience." I'm not sure that these actually are poems, but the two lyrics below represent my best attempts. I thought I'd trot them out for some fresh air. The literary ladies were gentle with me, I hope you will be, too.

Alone in Leme - Rio de Janeiro, August 2005

Green-shadowed streets,
air thick with salt,
unseen, the sea calls
everything to itself.

With a lover's familiar touch,
waves caress the beach.
They comfort and coax,
beckoning impossible embrace.

Women dressed in white
offer their evening tribute:
champagne and candles lit
for their forbear, lost

deep in aquatic union.
Mourning and seduction toss
in the tide's methodic logic.
Unlit waves arch to kiss
the night's long horizon.


Last night I ate an oyster.
We eat them alive, you know:
a cold shock of briny sea,
death by dinner party.

The shell was big, and as I ate,
it cut the corner of my mouth at
the point where lip meets
lip and almost is cheek.

So thin that delicate line of lip,
so easily severed by the ancient creature’s
last futile line of defense—
I dabbed my own blood the rest of the night.

Today, the prick of pain
each time I smile brings to mind
the beast’s sharp shell, not
its cold, strange meat.

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