I am not always the nutcase I would like to be. Sometimes, I am a beacon of rectitude, or at the very least a rectum of beatitude. And so, beatifically sitting upon my booty, with smug righteousness imprinted like a barcode upon my lofty brow, I was randomly surfing the net the other day, wandering through what we might call the “Classical Blogosphere.” And, over at JessicaMusic, where narcissism has considerably less sway than over here at ThinkDenk (according to my mother), what did I see but that pianist Stephen Hough has won a poetry competition? I cannot resist printing the poem here.
The world is
Asleep – sleeping
In those leapless
When powers fail, save
The billion slopes which
Rise and rose and fall
In a billion breaths on their
Beds of repose.
To the garden, awake,
Tiptoe, quick, go
Slick-stairs down the
Steps to the pre-dew
Night morn before the
Dawn’s birth is born.
Follow to the foliage where,
Hidden as the future’s
Fall or rise, the rose –
Petals closed – will bud-burst
A billion atoms of beauty.
Let us bend down, our faces
Towards the flower which
Wakes and trembles
In that pause of hour.
Let us say the words which
Shake or stumble
In day’s poor prose, pour
Verse into the stamen’s
So when the day dries
Dreams, wakes dew, and
Sunplay in dazzling green
Or hue, the perfume from
That secret rose will
Breathe our poem to every
Nose: sigh language of love;
Encrypted script of ecstasy.
An unqualified, enthusiastic, passionate admirer of Mr. Hough’s playing, I had never before encountered his verse. I could not help a twinge of envy creeping as if from the sorrowful depths of my almost empty Venti. I felt that I, too, had something to offer the poetry world, reams perhaps of unwritten odes which could offer a poised foil to this “encrypted script of ecstasy.” I, too, wished to “pour verse into the quivering stamen” of something-or-other.
I recalled, at this dark moment, that I did have a poem to offer the world. Mr. Hough’s poem is about the universal wonder of morning, of dew-covered, trembling foliage; whereas mine, poor postmodern thing, is more centrally concerned with mold and fungus. Let me explain. After many years of passionate entreaties from my friends, and the Department of Health, I was finally convinced to hire someone on a regular basis to come in and clean my apartment. This wonderful person, Monika, I have come to think of as sort of the “conscience of the greater world,” since when she leaves, my apartment looks more or less like you would imagine a normal person’s apartment should, if they were impoverished, blind, and loved to purchase books that no one else really wanted to read.
But, by a terrible twist of fate, both Christmas and New Year’s fell on Tuesdays, her regular day, and I found myself having to live several weeks without her, having become addicted to the semblance of normalcy she provided. And thus, out of the darkest moments, comes the greatest inspiration:
ODE TO MONIKA
Oh Monika, you moniker, you monster!
Oh beast who promised cleanliness
But now leaves only dusty loneliness
My detritus, you moniker, you monster!
Oh Monika, my dishes pile in savage heaps
From whence (who knows?) aroused bacterium leaps
Receipts and disused papers teeter in the winds
and crusted honey dropt from oatmeal past now binds
the sinful slothful pages of my present domicile
telling sermons on my flushed youth
an obsolete guest, a loosened tooth
well past prime, a milk gone sour a while…
like a poem written in the ancient style.
Oh Monika! my stale testosterone, I hear it!
It echoes down the empty corridor,
echoes nothing: vacuum of vacuums,
My filth foredoom of dooms
in these empty and yet cluttered rooms
once cloistered wombs, now tombs upon tombs
OK, so don’t feel any pressure out there, Think Denk readers, but which of these poems do you like better? That’s what I thought.
I challenge Stephen Hough to a pianist vs. pianist poetry slam smackdown kind of situation, in front of screaming tens of people. Venue TBA, Prize TBA, let’s just do this.