busy little stevie and poetry in the garden

The last couple of days have been very busy for me.

I re-organized six cabinets of choral music at church. The organization of my church choir is different from the way I have been taught. They keep their anthems in manila folders and arrange them in subjects like general (the biggest), Advent, Xmas,  and so on. I have been meaning to reshuffle them into one big file organized by composer. And that’s what I did.

I have chosen to do this right now because my efforts to get the choir off the ground this fall are not going so good.

Several people have quit. Others have to do other things this year on rehearsal night.

My boss and I are quit flummoxed by the idea that we serve a church community full of skilled musicians few of which choose to contribute to the musical life of the church.

This summer I utilized some of this skill. But I was turned down over and over before I could gather a group of musicians to perform one piece on one Sunday morning.

I am beginning to think that I am part of the problem. I suspect  I’m too eccentric and different from these musicians’ idea of what a good musician is.

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Actually this isn’t totally a suspicion. It has been partially confirmed by direct comments and behavior of the local college musicians who are in our chuch community. Oh well.

Instead I have been emphasizing areas where I think I am effective.

Like organizing the choral music, choosing and arranging music, doing good hymnody well and performing literature on the organ, harpsichord and piano.  (Haven’t done so much piano lately but I have in the past). Blah blah blah. Life goes on.

I sat in the garden yesterday waiting for Eileen.

I was sipping a martini and read Louis Glück’s little book of poetry, Ararat.

Poem after poem seemed to hit me. I was in the mood I guess.

Here’s an example:

The Untrustworthy Speaker

Don’t listen to me; my heart’s been broken.
I don’t see anything objectively.

I know myself; I’ve learned to hear like a psychiatrist.
When I speak passionately,
That’s when I’m least to be trusted.

It’s very sad, really: all my life I’ve been praised
For my intelligence, my powers of language, of insight-
In the end they’re wasted-

I never see myself.
Standing on the front steps. Holding my sisters hand.
That’s why I can’t account
For the bruises on her arm where the sleeve ends . . .

In my own mind, I’m invisible: that’s why I’m dangerous.
People like me, who seem selfless.
We’re the cripples, the liars:
We’re the ones who should be factored out
In the interest of truth.

When I’m quiet, that’s when the truth emerges.
A clear sky, the clouds like white fibers.
Underneath, a little gray house. The azaleas
Red and bright pink.

If you want the truth, you have to close yourself
To the older sister, block her out:
When a living thing is hurt like that
In its deepest workings,
All function is altered.

That’s why I’m not to be trusted.
Because a wound to the heart
Is also a wound to the mind.

by Louis Glück

And aptly for this time of year:

Labor Day

It’s a year exactly since my father died.
Last year was hot. At the funeral, people talked about the weather.
How hot it was for September. How unseasonable.

This year, it’s cold.
There’s just us now, the immediate family,
in the flower beds,
shreeds of bronze, of copper.

Out front, my sister’s daughter rides her bicycle
the way she did last year,
up and down the sidewalk. What she wants is
to make time pass.

While to the rest of us
a whole lifetime is nothing.
One day you’re a blond boy with a tooth missing;
the next, an old man gasping for air.
It comes to nothing, really, hardly
a moment on earth.
Not a sentence, but a breath, a caesura.

by Louis Glück

I thought of her because she’s just published a new book of poetry which was reviewed in Sunday’s NYT Book Review (link).

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