FLATS AND SHARPS
Exultation in Bémol (i)‘How strange the change from major to minor.’ Cole Porter
‘I like the music.’ Sir Bernard Lovell, Astronomer Royal
1. My hymn of joy is in a minor key
because I am not certain it will be
a joy for ever, and e flat is true
to the six flats of ambiguity,
and earthly expectations. It creates
semitone pleas to the musical fates,
with an undertow of cosmic ennui.
The joy is not pure. But still the beauty
of not being sure is you can defer
high hopes to give honesty its due.
No major chords forcing the truth to do
more than it contains. The unholy quaver
is plaintive. Its saving grace must be
the half tone of hesitant behaviour.
G major would be a hymn of battle.
The joy in its f sharp is short lived.
The peace that comes after the final kill
can’t be lasting. The bereft don’t forgive
the loss of heroes memorials extol.
The Eroica, Beethoven’s pacifying gift
to Napoleon, comes in bémol.
2. Bémol in French means pipe down. And e flat.
The register of Mouchette in Bresson’s film.
Always out of tune when other children
belt out school songs in strict unison,
she drowned herself, unrolling like a mat
down a slippery slope to a lime kiln
subsiding into mud, and that was that.
But did her misery in us lessen
with the strains of the Magnificat
in the background, as though in a chapel?
Monteverdi’s plainsong keep us guessing
at heaven’s gate, or wherever God is posted
to exalt the meek. One day all will be well.
Out in daylight we must make the most of it.
3. Blind faith is facing up to a blank wall
so you can jump it, Pascal says. Wait
outside, and take your chance after nightfall.
And adds, it’s never just an act of will.
Your heart must be in it. Proof is still
in the body, an instrument. Let it sing,
and prove yourself with a leap of faith.
4. Music gets me over the garden gate,
and once inside, I pick up a windfall,
humming to myself, ‘It is not too late
to double guess the worm, and eat the apple.
It dropped in your lap of its own accord.
Call it love, or bliss, or just what happens
when ripeness is all. It’s only natural.’
A hymn to joy isn’t just its own reward.
I compose myself, and my lungs fill
to breathe out an open air in e flat,
tendering life into a doubter’s view,
with a bagatelle in a minor key.
The piped down tone is a muted trill,
delivering the promise of close harmony.
And I have something to look forward to…
(i) When first b flat was introduced into the scale it was called bémol (mol derives from mollir, to soften). Musical notation has changed over the years, and so contrary to its etymol(sic)ogical origins, bémol in the French scale is now e flat.
Vexed AnswersThis morning I forgot to complain
about passing events, the despair
of dreams, what is in the newspaper,
the wrong weather forecast. I don’t blame
anyone, even myself. Elsewhere
the imperfections of life remain
inconstant as the seasons. I’ve heard
the voice of mock turtles in the land.
‘My sister, life’, I say, and wake her
with a smile. ‘I think I’m going sane.
I’ve dressed myself in the certainties
every day. The granted. Grant’s a word
from the past that’s grown too big for me.
Hesitations I can understand.
They hold the joy of what happens next.’
‘I’m sure you’re right. What about breakfast.’
My Last BookI wrote a book
in my head. It had no cover
except my hair. As for binding
it was stitched together
by the sutures of my skull.
It’s spine I suppose is mine.
The pages contained nothing
except my brain. Words
were not necessary, the ideas
floated around. I forget them.
There cannot be any readers.
It was a good book while it lasted.
Chant Contre Baudelaire’s ‘L’Ennemi’Pour les deux Charles
Dans ma jeunesse je jouais
sur mon violon d’Ingres.
Maintenant, je ne peux pas
me debarrasser de l’air
dans ma tête. Winterreise.
Et alors. Mange ta tartine.
Miel de lune et banane.
Un petit déjeuner
alléchant. Comme Charles
Aznavour. ‘Oublie, oublie
Loulou. Oublie-la, donc.’