Poem from:

Gods of Babel by Judith Mok

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Beethoven in New York

Mok, Judith

Fur Elise

This night is on me like a blank sheet
I have to write
Of people playing my music that
Fills the subway with my submerged sounds
As if I am a whale vibrating through the thick of times
Communicating that my name is: Beethoven
A man of music in a storm of voices
A choir, an army of American instruments
People playing my music, people judging me
How I rode this crushing wave of emotions

I wake up to chaos and constellations in my head
Thinking: I will have to tell her
I heard this choir supporting some statement about me
Thinking: it's one breath of mine against three of hers
That's what our rhythm seems to be

I hear this couple talking
Two voices modulating into one
Softly speaking specters of promises

I spy on her asleep
Sensing a child in her with too many dreams
To chose from, her jaws clenched
To keep them inside till they rot
While she dies slowly in her sleep.

Casual chords coming from open car windows
Signaling to me that these are New York symphonies
And also: that Elise is still here with me
That I must write for her.

Her eyes closed in the half-light
A film of cold sweat on her pale skin
Her neck exposed to my murderous mind
And me slicing through her sighs
While all I feel is music, my music melting
In the smothering air we breathe, one against three.

She came to me. Her mouth
Full of crunched up words
A meaningless alphabet to her tune
She turns her slender body away
So I can wipe it dry and write,
Write on her bony back, as on a blackboard
Feeling the whipping flame on my eyes
When I see too much of her
And want to write, my love, my love
But instead I write two notes - ta - ta
A diminished second, and from there: on.

This I will hear until I go deaf
And then it will last

Two notes dancing in a ripped up dawn
I, sadly take to my formal clothes, a composer again
My mind still playing with the thought of her body
Gasping -ta-ta- while I brush my hair
Reacquire my intense stare
Her glow on me in the mirror
It is her planet I live on
Nothing belongs to me but, music

I bring broken notebooks.
Winging my way down to the New York subway

The entrance is like a gargoyle upside-down
I dive into its steam-spouting mouth
My pores oozing fear
I walked this score
I see, I can hear
The mini masters who play my music have sorted me out
While they keep talking and talking on about Elise and: me
And are hammering out her tune -ta-ta

I am inside the whale, in my ears, in my heart
Wanting to fight against the pulse -ta-ta
But its here, played on a steel drum
Beet- Beethoven on a pot, a drum looking like
A caved in reproduction of our gutted earth,
A rivulet of my music, my feelings scored.
This tender tone: for Elise
Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta from there: onwards
And they say I have asperger syndrome

Copyright © Judith Mok 2011. Recorded and produced by Shane Booth.  All Rights Reserved.

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