When I was 15, my sister had an extra ticket to see Joni Mitchell at the Jacksonville Memorial Coliseum. I didn’t really care about Joni Mitchell then, so I passed. What a mistake. I recall later seeing one of her lyrics in a college literature book. Still, it would take me years of listening to her music to realize what a wonderful writer of words she is.
One of my favorite lyrics of hers comes from the For the Roses song “Ludwig’s Tune (Judgement of the Moon and Stars).” The last lines of the song address the deaf Ludwig van Beethoven:
Condemned to wires and hammers
Strike every chord that you feel
That broken trees
And elephant ivories
She has her rhyme but so much more. The image: precise, innovative. The last lines–“That broken trees/And elephant ivories/Conceal”–connote the natural processes and what happens when nature and man conspire. It’s a new way of knowing the world.
In Sandra Beasley’s poem, “The Piano Speaks,” I’m given another way of looking at the world.
The Piano Speaks
After Erik SatieFor an hour I forgot my fat self,my neurotic innards, my addiction to alignment.For an hour I forgot my fear of rain.For an hour I was a salamandershimmying through the kelp in search of shore,and under his fingers the notes slid loosefrom my belly in a long jellyrope of eggsthat took root in the mud. And whatwould hatch, I did not know—a lie. A waltz. An apostle of glass.For an hour I stood on two legsand ran. For an hour I panted and galloped.For an hour I was a maple tree,and under the summer of his fingersthe notes seeded and winged awayin the clutch of small, elegant helicopters.