Saturday, September 19, 2009

Michael's Melody (Poem)

The poem below is for my friend Michael for whom music is so much more than notes or a score. Originally, I wrote Michael a prose piece that returned to him the story he shared about Melody, his beloved partner, and her struggle with and, in 2006, death from cancer. Recently, I went back to the prose and turned it into poetry. Michael, I hope you like this just as much.



Michael's Melody
for Michael A.

Her name was Melody.

Your life with her,
a succession of musical tones
you committed to memory.

She performed her songs
her way, your own material
her steady backup.

What chance music
you made together
merged whole notes and half-steps

Ascending and descending
the scales of dogged beats
till family came round

And all you and she could hear
were appoggiature: discordancies --

Eventually resolved a tempo --

Or accidentals
requiring you both to ad lib.

You hit some mistaken sharps,
she, some deliberate flats

Trying more than once
to create a best-selling album.

You did manage to finish
a few tracks:

By day, allegri and vivaci;
by night, appassionati.

In between, atonal;
often, augmented

Many days a due.

Infrequent broken chords
imposed an unaccountable countermelody
for counting the hours by.

Mostly, the articulation was clear.

You learned to play in unison,
being careful to allow the occasional cadenza.

Unnotated, a new theme --
this one titled Cancer --
introduced itself in your score.

It took many variations,
and your songs, Michael,
became through-composed:

The music for every stanza
different, and always,
always with few rests.

This is how it went.

And so this is how it went:

Ever in perfect pitch
but the tempo forever changing.

Presto to ritardando,
piannissimo to grave.

The coda, finally
followed by caesura:

The lead too quickly silenced.

When the percussion started up again,
the chorus offered its round.

Repeated. . . held. . . resolved.

Your tempo now pecato, calm,
you begin the post-lude.

The heaviness in the lower register lifts.

Wary, though,
you watch for deceptive cadence,
unanticipated dissonance.

You fear missing the downbeat.

Still, you understand
the dynamics much better.

You know how to get through
by going back to the beginning.

After the anniversary march,
even you admit
duets could be a possibility.

You're ready for your encore:
this first one a solo

Espressivo,
con intensita
on cue.

Copyright 2009 Maureen E. Doallas.
All Rights Reserved.

3 comments:

Laurie Kolp said...

What a nice tribute to your friend. I love the music metaphor.

Brian Miller said...

maureen, this is beautiful. i am sure it touched him greatly...finely layer with musical terminology and word play...but the story, the heart is waht shines the most. cancer has touched my family and many friends as well...thank you.

chromapoesy.com said...

What chance music
you made together
merged whole notes and half-steps

Infrequent broken chords
imposed an unaccountable countermelody
for counting the hours by.

These were my favorite parts. Excellent use of the metaphor.