Ludwig van Beethoven

It was just him and me that evening

In a dimly lit coffeehouse on the south bank of the Thames,

Like we’d somehow met halfway.

 

Though I knew the Atlantic to be wider than his short jaunt from Vienna,

I offered to pay for the drinks

As he was the one who soared valiantly across the stars of two centuries

To meet me, and I simply took an early flight and a cab.

 

When we sat down, I happened to glance over his shoulder and out the window,

Catching the London fog along the length of the still river

As if it had wandered straight from some

Penciled copy of Eliot’s poetry

Or a chapter from that Dickens novel

Sitting softly on the shelf in a used bookstore near Piccadilly.

 

But all I could do was ladle my mug with both hands

Like a beggar warding off frostbite

As I tried to think of what to say, desperately wishing to avoid

The stilted air of an interview

Or the false pretense of coziness, talking about the weather

Or something equally grey and dull.

 

Yet, in the silence,

As the moon held its head above the water of the gentle, pebbled tide,

I looked to his navy coat, his shock of famous hair,

And, finally, to his curled fingers on the table

As they drummed lightly beside his empty cup and the black dregs

Splattered like notes along the bottom.

 

They spoke for themselves

The way they’d spoken all those years ago

In the Moonlight Sonata, the riot of the Fifth Symphony,

The glorious Ode to Joy.

 

And now, strolling down the street into the marble cool hours of night,

I slowly attach these headphones

And choose his Seventh Symphony in A major,

The one he reportedly wrote to convalesce from the storms of illness.

 

And I carry two thoughts, one for each pocket,

The first, how beautiful the winter air,

The second, a quiet wish that I could tell him how good it is to know

He’s still got it.

Together

A poem for my daughter, Julianna…


In the dream,

You and I were seated,

Side by side,

In the bench seat of a borrowed golf cart,

Touring the cracks and

Sparkling asphalt of our neighborhood

As the sun began to set.

 

Together,

We hummed through the endless turns

And quiet stretches,

Never bothering to circle back

(if that’s what one does in a winding subdivision),

And I laughed as your cheeks tightened

From smiling

And your blonde hair giggled in the wind.

 

I think we drove for hours,

You and I,

Always whirling around another corner,

Discovering the horizons that lilted with purpled light.

 

“Daddy,” you sang.

“Yes, Julie?”

 

I looked over at you

And your bouncing knees,

Clapping hands,

As you climbed the little ladders in your eyes,

Gazing into futures,

Wondering,

Eyelashes swept with spring.

 

The warm pull of our small motor

Rose into the sky

As you colored the clouds with your singing,

Like fingerpaint against infinite sheets

Of 97¢ construction paper.

 

“Daddy,” you sang.

“Yes, Julie?”

 

But then,

Slowly,

Our magic cart

Reached the end of the dream,

Our swirling atmosphere slurred to a stop

Like chalk,

Our wheels sticking on the fermata,

The song sustaining, the pedal dampened,

As my brain began to wake my body.

 

“Daddy,” you sang.

“Yes, Julie?”

 

I stumble through the early light

To open your bedroom door.

 

“I love you,” you sing.

“Good morning, Julie,” I respond,

 

And we both hear the click of the

Automatic coffee maker,

Heralding the dawn,

As we walk down the morning stairs

 

Together.