Books for Poets | Mailing List | Copyrights | About Us


In the Music

December 2011


You hear something in the music. Maybe you're playing the instrument, or singing, or listening to a band live or the song is in your head from earphones, or it is just in your head. But you hear something that you never heard before. Perhaps, something no one has heard before.

Personal associations abound for people hearing a particular song.

In Karl Shapiro's poem "The Piano Tuner's Wife," my attention went to the closing stanza:

And in conclusion, When there is no more audible dissent,
He plays his comprehensive keyboard song,
The loud proud paradigm,
The one work of art without content.

What is "the one work of art without content" that Shapiro is talking about? Is it the music - or the poem? Are we tuning our poems in the way of the piano tuner? Do we sometimes hear an arpeggio, a theme? Do you hear the music in something most of us would not typically describe as musical (music of the spheres)?

Write a poem about what you hear in the music that no one else is hearing.

For more on all our prompts and other things poetic, check out the Poets Online blog.



Tracing shadows on your face,
my hand races blindly ahead
of common sense amidst
Mozart's strings,
I hear the faint flicker of candlelight.
No stranger to genius, his music
spurs me on to risks never imagined,
risks like proclaiming a love for you
so strong my voice catches
in my throat mid song, orchestrating
a crescendo of candle dances,
lighting love's path as softly
as a newborn's kiss, and sweeter still.
The wine and secrets we share long
into the night's ambiance arouse
more than mutual passion,
we applaud the candles' minuet on
the golden oak mantel,
we appear to be puppets on Mozart's strings,
dangling and dazzled.

Susan Stewart



Unheard music in the heart
Measures distance from the soul.
You see me as one, but I am part
Character choosing a role. The freedom in my fingers
Says practice plays surprise.
When trying to hear, the mind lingers
While truth's major chords dies.

Edward N. Halperin


There has to be a thread somewhere
that sews the fabric into one.
How else can each of us still wear   and fiery concert-banners share ?
From linen, wool, or cotton spun
There has to be a thread somewhere
  to save the cloth from wear and tear -
and the patterns finely done !
How else can we old ones still wear
  the mantles we had thought so fair,
that fluttered through our dance in fun ?
There has to be a thread somewhere -
  its strings still weaving through the air
while catching color from the sun.
How else can everyone still wear
    The codes of music in their hair
and rhythmic garlands dearly won ?
What else can everyone still wear ?
There has to be a thread somewhere !

Catherine M. LeGault


The house is empty.
No one lives here anymore.
Candles around the bathtub
wait for some suicidal flower,
maybe a girl named Lily,
her petal-palms padding pink water.
An ache of longing lingers, hovers
near the ceiling like a closet shadow.
Look at you.  Poetry sliding from your mouth
as naturally as lips glossed with a wet tongue.
How do you do that?  The lost memory
of an R. E. M. song plays in the hallway at the top of the stairs,
unaware it's a razored memory, and not allowed there.
The stereo is quiet,
fingers to its AC/DC teeth
like a square brown mother shushing a child.
But go now.  There's nothing to see here.
All that was is hidden in the paintings nailed along cracked walls,
invisible to the naked.  There's nothing to see.  Go,
but first tell me how you do that, please.



'tis not that easy a thing i swear,
to sit here, night after night
playing for you.
your indifference, half hidden
through the cigarette smoke
curling there round your face,
like the icy fingers of jealous rage
clawing at my stomach.
jealous,me? yes, that i seem unable to please you,
nor feed your eternal hunger.
still your desire seems nothing more than passing fancy,
to tease me
so is more than a lover should bear.
as i press calloused fingertip
to a fret
you care not that the note rings true
nor that melody moves me.
yet i am born to this and
you are master, i the servant.
even now as i softly stroke your neck,
my hand on your body,
i can sense the change, the strain of the wire,
that becomes
the tension in your voice.
As i hold you close to me.
it will be another long night.



I hear you in all the songs today.
Each lyric written for you or me,
for us, by you or me, by us.
The music you gave me, of course,
but now you have worked your way
into my own music, the songs on the radio,
a tune I can't get out of my head.

I find myself humming you in the shower,
my hand pulling up to my belly,
over and round and up my neck,
resting on my cheek.
I try standing long under the warm
hoping to wash it away.

The song comes to me from outside
through an open window as I make
my small supper alone and I close the window
so as not to have to share what little food
I have with a ghost.




The young man
Played his violin
In the courtyard below.
There was longing and laughter,
Gondolas on moonlit waters,
Red hibiscus in hair,
Long skirts in sunshine,
Chocolate and coffee
All in his melody. I listened.
My eyes misting over
A smile on my lips
As my gnarled fingers Tried to close
The buttons on my waistcoat.
Oh Rosalind!
Of the round hips
and sweet lips,
The Nectar of Life. I knelt my head
Against the window pane
The lace curtains
Caressed my face
And I thought of her
As the sweet strings
Played my life
over and over again.  



Now that we have played it through,
the final line of this movement,
notes chorded into a tapestry,
six tones for a moment are one.

Fermata, a blessed rest,

sustaining the silence beyond
what we might once have done.
We take in breath, close eyes.
The absence is itself a sound,

firmare, made solid somehow.

Tonight, I sleep drugged dreamless
and tomorrow I will awake to nothing,
a blank sheet of writing paper,
its beautiful emptiness taking me into

feria, a day of rest.




Hear the music of the voices speaking different tongues.
The crowded E-train from Queens disgorges its passengers at its first Manhattan stop.
The Spanish from Mexico, Columbia, and Puerto Rico, the German, Russian, Polish,
English and occasional Greek that had been quietly spoken has become silent
The crowds stream onto the platform to the sound of music:beating African drums,
Forties dance music played by a trombone backed by a tape,
and a baritone accompanying his aria with an electric piano.
In the music I hear the rubbing of shoulders, the joining of purpose.
I hear too a memory of many delicious dinners eaten in the Queens from which I have come.
Ellen Kaplan