Friday, February 01, 2008

587. The Last Days Of Orpheus - Morri Creech

As for the songs, he still remembered them —
that, at least, was nice; and down the hall
the peevish landlord on his rounds was known
to hum with real feeling. But the days seemed small

and untuned now. He sulked or slept, an old man
in a rented room whose face no one recalled
from record sleeves or posters of the band;
who kept to himself, thick-waisted, a little bald.

There remained, nevertheless, the minor harmonies
of sun and leaf, some clouds and half a moon
to charm the dull hours; or, at times, a phrase
from Brahms or Mahler on the gramophone —

but trees his song swept had resumed their stations;
the wind, stunned to a doldrum by his voice,
now wore at the same gray stone. The audience
of shades had long ago turned toward the noise

and boredom to which the dead are so accustomed.
What was he left with? — photographs, a sheet
or two of notes on which a snowing dust
settled, a bride's gown hung neatly in the closet.

And little else that proved to him the past
was real, or mattered much. He could believe,
for instance, that he sang once in the mist,
the big venues of Hell: here were the sheaves

where he had scrawled the music. He felt sure
someone had listened, sure a fallen leaf
rose to its branch in sympathy: the measures,
repeating in his mind, composed his grief.

He closed his eyes. Perhaps it had been real —
the grandeurs of the stage; love. Yet the years
looked to him like the bride caught in a spell
who winks, then turns her back and disappears.

No matter that he could not retrieve them now.
He remembered a girl's face, her wedding ring
flashing, remembered a place of grief and shadow.
And, as he remembered, he began to sing.

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