My snapshots of Ludwig van Beethoven
Hi-ho, Silver! Away! August 13, 2009
I like this one: Ludwig on his white stallion
galloping across a great field
toward a higher country;
the sun is loud and the clouds are piled high
in that marvelously meaningful complexity of structure
that can never be explained
and on the brink of the higher plateau,
seeing ahead more sun, more clouds, bigger mountains,
he pulls up, rears the great white horse against the blue,
and brimming over with electric exuberance
he waves his white Stetson
three times in a circle, high above his head;
and then he turns the stallion's mighty head,
and thunders furiously up into the far hills.
You know that place, in the Fifth.
In order to avoid sadness,
I imagine him simply never coming back.
How many times February 16, 2000
in your life will you hear the Pathétique?
asks the classical disk jockey as I
drive my great rusty wagon
from the supermarket to the gas station
under a cold impartial moon
and this seems to me an important question
as the piano fills the car with almost
harshly clear thought
Beethoven pounding out the truth once again
from long ago and far away and
filtered, interpreted, enhanced and digitized
and sent to me through the miracle of
frequency modulation to ponder one more time
as I drive my great rusty wagon to get gasoline.
My mother was so bold as to try, all her life,
to play the Pathétique, even though
she knew she would never so much as
crack its massive, ornate iron gates.
Every note of the Pathétique is written
somewhere in my childish soul;
and every thought of the Pathétique
makes inescapable sense to me now.
And so it does not matter how many more times
I will hear it.
At the Exxon station the pavilion arches spaciously
over the nearly deserted pumps.
I turn the radio up
set the gas to pump itself
and listen carefully to Emil Gilels
think through the Pathétique
at times with an extraordinary eloquence
that seems wrong to me; yet perhaps he
just grew weary of his master’s unshakable confidence,
Ludwig walking the tightrope down through the
centuries, never to fall or even tremble on the wire.
I lean against the mighty flank of the wagon
filling itself with the acrid life’s blood
of our civilization
and eat a perfect glazed doughnut, quite slowly.
The fallen, the ruined pavilions, gleaming in the moonlight.