The Third Symphony (a poem)

Bonus round—an unusually long poem, written on my typewriter as I was listening to Henryk Górecki’s Symphony No. 3: Symphony of Sorrowful Songs.

The Third Symphony is a fantasy

My car hugged the curves of the winding road as I drove home
Darkness did not deter me
I was strangely ready to let go, should it come to that

I almost imagined those final moments of unabashed freedom
and wondered what that last physical sensation would feel like
before the traffic signal appeared up ahead
and I put on my turn signal

The Third Symphony is a meditation

Cones vibrate slowly, mimicking the slow drone of the cellos
and the billowing of just-washed sheets drying on the line

Tree branches pause to wait for the afternoon breeze
I don’t know their names anymore
somehow, this does not worry me

We let each other be—this is the deal we have struck

The Third Symphony is unconcerned with time or tense

The unfolding of a life can be unbearable
but it cannot be rushed

It is tempting to want to skip ahead to the good parts
but inadvisable when one is as perpetually dissatisfied as I am

It would be better if I spoke the language
of the world in which I live

I’d rather be left in peace

The Third Symphony disclaims its own importance

I have shrugged off demands both reasonable and un-
Perhaps it’s integrity—but really I’m just stubborn

If there’s an expectation I haven’t confounded, it doesn’t exist

I never wanted to be counted on to do the right thing
I wanted someone to love me unconditionally

Is that so much to ask?
I would have returned the favor…

The Third Symphony skips pages when it’s convenient

It’s not that there are too many notes
but that some themes are hard to sustain

Some poets are more comfortable with the short form

The Third Symphony wants to rest between movements

Recording technology has changed—
if you don’t program in the pause
the stream keeps playing
and silence is diminished, overpowered, overwhelmed

The only way out is to cut the current altogether
but then nothing works
and we grow cold and hungry

The Third Symphony takes in everything

The tympani holds back, but insists on staying

Seats in the giant hall tremble slightly
until the crescendo subsides

The floor sighs in relief

The Third Symphony smirks

Pavarotti is late again—
but he’s dead now, so it can’t be helped

The maestro steps backstage for a smoke
leaving a complex chord hanging gingerly in the air

The minimalists in the audience misinterpret this as a compliment

The cigarette smoke is just glad it has somewhere to rest
before its inevitable disappearance into the unseen realms of the atmosphere

The Third Symphony stifles a yawn

Exhaustion is a hard feeling to fight
fighting requires energy

All I want to do is sleep
especially after my morning coffee—
which I’d rather skip, but I’m a creature of habit, if not ritual

I used to wake up to music
but I’d usually rather sleep through it
and the cat has her own agenda anyway

The Third Symphony ignores these petty concerns

The circadian habits of an obscure poet aren’t worthy of notice

That’s fair—I only bring out The Third Symphony when I’m feeling
a particular existential despair

Pills can help control the symptoms
but they have no effect on personality

The Third Symphony doesn’t care that I’d rather be someone else

I have no choice but to listen if I want to hear it

The Third Symphony knows this, and acts accordingly

I press a button and let the music play

What happens then is a function of time, physics, chemistry, and biology
and the indefinable spark that makes it all make some sort of sense
in the mind of an obscure poet wanting only to quiet troubled thoughts
who, meanwhile, types out lines and lines of words on the page
not knowing where they’ll end
but hoping they make sense in the end

The Third Symphony carries on, paying no attention:

It knows its mood, where it’s going, and how long before it gets there
It knows more than I do
Its place in the canon is secure

When the afternoon breeze returns to the trees
and the just-washed sheets billow as they hang on the line
the Third Symphony will fade
that last chord lingering in the air
eventually settling to wait for me somewhere

(28 April 2018)