Why this has always been
as a pool of dark still water
set in polished stone,
I cannot tell. I like to think
he knew the human thirst for life
and our equal need for rest;
Yet here is no repose –
Singing on the edge
Of an abyss of thought
The soul, strung out
Taut and white,
Aching into silence.
Herr Ludwig, at it again. You can tell,
You know, all that hammering and knocking,
So loud my old ears would fain be deaf soon.
Little wonder, then, what they all say:
The old man upstairs is deaf! I won’t know,
Of course, not I, I just serve his tea, and
Good Lord that’s enough to take it out of
Any woman half my age... Yes, if not
For the money I’d never have agreed.
But beggars can’t be choosers, and the old man
Pays on time, that much I’ll say, though where the
Money comes from is the devil’s work, I warrant.
You, speak to him? Ha! Better ask to see
The Emperor himself, at least you’ll be
Refused civilly. Last fellow that came
Left half in tears, they say, though I weren’t in
And can’t tell you why. Ah, those were the days,
When fellows would visit me and leave
Half in tears themselves. Little spitfire,
They called me, and I was too proud to care.
Long ago... Sir! You’re leaving now? Sit down,
Have some tea. No? Oh, all of you young ones,
You don’t know what you’ve got. Well, suit yourself,
But don’t say I didn’t ask. Herr Ludwig,
He’s better Tuesdays, when the music folks
Come in. Try your luck then. Yes, goodbye sir,
And take care with those books! Goodbye, sir.
The people here are good and kind,
Good and kind. They speak to me
In loud slow syllables, but not so much
As would cause offence. It embarrasses me
To see through their charade.
Daily this sea of silence
Roars ever louder. At mealtimes
I imagine the clink of wineglasses, the
Clatter of cutlery. A dozen mouths
Open and shut in a surreal dumbshow.
When Goethe called my name
His words were swallowed by air.
Enmeshed in a net of thought,
What comfort wraps itself round the skin,
Insinuates itself into dull flesh?
Yesterday the woods were a calm
Dark cool green. I wrote the silent stream
Into fugal counterpoint, set down the arching sky
As one more woodwind solo.
One should not ask for more.
Yet the music swells to a charged con brio,
It will be more, take more than it should –
Life holds it captive still.
I shake out my well-worn ink-stained quill
And remake the day anew.