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Poems


1812 Overture

 

The cannon are the hardest part, now

that I have given up trying to whistle the bells.

The best I can do, for a cannon blast,

is puff out my cheeks and make

a low gargling noise in my throat --

     Boof!       Boof, boof!

-- to punctuate "God Save the Tsar" just so.

 

Nor is it easier to whistle a "Marseillaise"

interwoven with crescendoes grander

than the French ever hoped for.

Or find breath enough to pedal

while slipping and sliding

    down
           those
                long
                     glorious
                            cascades
                                of notes.

Or keep track of Tchaikovsky's

elaborate transitions while dodging

                           BUSES

    cabs

                                             pot-
                                                         holes.

 

But the worst are

   the melodies
   piled
   so high
   atop each other

that one person, whistling as he bikes

on a glorious spring morning,

cannot hope to do any of them justice,

not with the most artful

        trills,

                the cleverest INterCUTTING.

I have only two lips; Tchaikovsky had

a hundred splendid instruments,

(none menaced by the southbound 42

in the outer lanes of Dupont Circle).

 

An exercise for "Poetry Bootcamp," March, 2000


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