Views of Schubert

To hear Lorrie Goldensohn reading “Views of Schubert,” click here. All golden wood, this concert hall Is small and hushed; we rush to the last seats and fetch up on the wrong side, not facing the keyboard.

Our eyes, stepchildren in this art,
yield to our ears;
the whole vast instrument interposes
between us and the musician:
only his lopped trunk
framed in the rectangle
where the brace-stick
meets the piano’s raised lid.

Now the light, bouncing,
breaks from his elbows
flying apart, his sudden arms
ending in a gleaming cuff;
high up in the air, the pink
back of his hand, triumphant.

Down in the guts of the Steinway
the hammers trip
on the grillework of the strings;
miniature seal heads,
they lunge at the wires,
tapping and trembling,
boosting the rich rallies,

the stop-and-go of the music
lifting us up by the ears,
thing of no body compelling the body.

Now we can make out the black-clad knees,
and spot how his two black shoes
move in the brief forest
of piano legs and pedals.
It is well that we understand
how low and small the place
from which the large
tumult of Schubert rises.

Our pianist broods above
the intrusive servant of his will,
its black mahogany canceling for us
his voice, heart, lungs, and belly—

welcome our picket whose arms bear arms
deep into the country of abandon.

Now the braided thirds leap,
coil, and carom off the floorboards,
a shaking Steinway lid
struggles with its unseen load,
the treble thrill a little
gargle in its throat,
we can feel him tease it,
tease out the white
velvet of a bass pianissimo—
and then the melody,
all the repeats intact.

Unbearable sweetness! a deft
finger touches an eyeball
withdrawing a pleasure so sharp
its only analogue is pain.

Pulling at our faces,
the homeless flood of notes
looks for the waters
at rest in us; it
wheedles the tears out,
brings us to our feet,
the pianist from behind his piano,
who hears the thunder of our hands
and finished, lets his own hands dangle.