Issue 28: Kenneth Tanemura
It might’ve been Bach back in the mind,
mining meaning, the idea dissolving in notes before arriving,
the great ideas you’d one day get around
to eating, you told yourself.
It was the music of the examined life,
the tune and line of the Socratic life.
It wasn’t for everyone, it wasn’t for
boxers and Boxer, for minutemen
on the border hunting crossers.
It wasn’t for the cross, or the lover
of roses, who wanted their chords
to reach them without strain
like precipitation. Is muzak precipitation
forecasted by machines?
J.S. turned sense to sense,
hearing being what it is, being within earshot
collapsing earshot sonata for violin and piano,
a conversation between two or three haberdashers,
pinstripes versus solids.
Is that it, fit and form?
For to listen again and have heaven
spoiled by a child wincing at the peculiar
sound, avuncular. Ventricles of sound
simple as Nietzsche’s bedroom
in Sils Maria Switzerland.
There would be time for hotel rooms
with a view of yachts and the blue sea
they float on, for the crispness of sheets of Chopin,
showmen with exquisite fingers,
the lush tropes of sad sloshing around
in a vat of elegant despondency,
the only kind I can stomach
besides a quite disconsolate grace.
But there was none of that,
there was nothing almost
and what lifts the spirit like a cipher,
a baroque crumb, bagatelle,
sweet trifle, it hardly registers,
the regiment of melody,
the melodious voiceless instrument,
the instrumental function of music gone.
Without being useless I wouldn’t hear it.
I wouldn’t go quietly off to chop wood
in the woods as the others finished their cakes.
My tooth hurts, a child said,
and everyone was quick to give a referral.
Buzzed buzzing around smarter than I am
or can be except when the tune is playing, civilized
on another order or the best order
within the structures I built up.
Cheap top billing displaced by disruptions of silence,
interventions of quiet and an expression of quiet
are as eloquent as sound can be,
can’t be or be as soft as that
if no sound is soft.
Gentle, gentility is part of it
now graceful as a graceful one is required
to bend and break off into other realms
like Mars roving, nothing raving
the ravenous hunger satisfied now,
sated and another hunger under it wanting to hear,
fill the ear full of it, in teaspoons.
Too soon it was gone, it goes
and going finds a place to rest,
like pages in a book when no one reads.
Then the earmarked page is opened one evening,
and finds an opening, some craving
for knowledge it fulfills.
Fall, if seasons can be ascribed,
brown leaves, red sweaters,
the humid days behind now,
and they are looked upon with the fondness
given to the past, the great past
from which this music springs,
one only dreamt, not occurred,
not in concurrence with any run of notes,
not anything, the hinge that opens
from quiet to the way it sounded.
If the whole thing could be put to a soundtrack
of a movie like Heaven Can Wait
and it can if you’re not sure you belong there.
If you’ve got something to get off your chest first,
well then go ahead and do it.
You’re certainly dressed for it in your cashmere overcoat
and walking cane, yet nothing flashy
as if the whole resumé of your moral life
resides there in the lack of lint,
the polish on the shoe, the neatly creased lapel.
It does, at least in the sonata, or it kind of does,
wouldn’t you say, Gil?
There was the question of who would see
who where, that was the only question I had
for some years. So, people appeared,
strangers mostly being strange,
people were strange, the song
never touched me.
Acquaintances were seen in homes
in the city, in cafes and on terraces, phosphorescent,
or was that me of my own light gliding?
But the seeing was fake,
not knowing in the umbra is where I stayed,
staying like that, trying to get out of it
as if it was a matter of syntax,
get out of the shadow that is;
that is, out into the sun,
or was it an entirely other endeavor,
endeavoring as I did and don’t,
not now, here in the here and now
where ideas come from, unless
they gesticulate from the past,
out of the dense fog,
out of it to the clarity of wine,
the just transparent, the thin solidity
of it sounds like something I know,
something I ought to know at least,
least of all among the important
functions outlined in the manual.
I can see a silhouette of him back there
years ago, trying to figure out her agon,
as if the youth spent figuring it was agony,
pure agony it wasn’t, the fire always
flooding in like through a sunroof of the study.
I have to read Swann’s Way before I die, some said,
curiously bookending their lives
and if they don’t then they don’t,
they don a different motive, it was always
about something else, whatever the else proscribes
is someone else’s someone’s else’s entirely.
For they in their fear of crassness
took such pains to conceal the personal
under complex rhetorical gestures,
metaphors that led the attention
far astray, that it was mostly overlooked
even by the one spoken to,
face to face, in the most confidential
stance, leaning forward on her toes.
Kenneth Tanemura has an MFA in Creative Writing from Purdue University and his poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, Volt, Shampoo, XCP: Cross Cultural Poetics, xconnect and elsewhere.
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