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.

Into Words

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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