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.

In the Park

Along the snowy patches of field,

Almost blue in their cold whiteness,

I find a wooden bench and sit

To retie my weary shoelaces.


As the chilled wind tightens around my ears,

Lifting lightly at strands of my hair,

I notice a single cardinal, warbling and

Shuffling through the twigs and crystal ground.


I decide to draw a pen from my coat pocket

And a rolled cylinder of pages

To write of his ragged beauty, the deep red

Of his feathers, the drop of ink around his beak.


We keep company between us for a while,

He beneath the veil of a cherry blossom,

I on my wooden bench,

Sharing this large plot of blanketed earth as I


Jot down the detail of his eyes,

Aimed steadily toward the thaw of spring

When the warm winds will cry out from hibernation

And awaken us both from sleep.


I look up from my paper and nod as

The cardinal turns the corner of our little spot in the park,

Raises his patient eyes into the grey air,

And leaps into the frost, soaring into the future

Of years and years of sunlight

As I stand to walk some more.


We sped along the highway,

Headlights slicing through the dark.

You placed your hand at your side,

I held the wheel in silence,

Patterns of ice spreading at the edges of the windshield,

The defrost sighing on the dash.

I wanted to look over to you

And love you all over again,

Pull you close on the bridge

And kiss above the water

Far from this hanging night

Hovering over you and I

In our separate cars, driving to different houses.


On the mountains at the farthest border of the world,

Snow-capped and calling,

I felt my way to the thin line of the edge

And looked down into outer space


Where I could see the winds of stars fall asleep

Below my scarlet knuckles

As the northern lights, with their tin flame of foil fire,

Green and white diamond, filmed the midnight sky.


They told stories like my father,

Full of heroes and the beauties they fought for,

As every scene of laughter and of sorrow,

Played at once along the measures of their gleaming.


Then I balled a few rags of snow in my grasp

And clenched them hard enough for the cold to slide

Into my chest and crack my pounding heart alive

As I rose to my feet and steadied my shaking lungs.


I remember those tales well,

My father sitting by my bedside, holding

Oceans and sailing ships with the strength of

His love for me.


And I would follow him anywhere,

Through the forestry of childhood,

Keeping close to his heels as he

Showed me where to go,


Well into the iron winters of adulthood

As my stride slowly grew stronger, and

He taught me how to breathe

The mountain air of becoming a father.


For now, as I stand at the peak of this universe,

Filled with ice and the sweep of shooting stars,

I turn and see the faces of my own children and my beautiful wife,

Looking to me with the smiles of home,


And I know it is time to tell my own stories,

To hold their hands and lead them onward

As they keep close to my heels, and I show them

Where to go.

Lost at Sea

He saw the night sky crack like a violin

When he first began to drown.

It cut across the string of stars, every single pearl,

Dropping them, one by one, into the cold Atlantic.


Beneath the black waves, he gasped for all the ice in the wind,

Baring his teeth into the howling wolves of winter

As they shook his brain awake, his eyes reddened

And wounded by their torches, the faint fire of salt water

Biting at his dreams.


The ship behind him raised her nose into the darkness

As she flaked the splintered beams from her hull,

Littering the wild water with the bones of war,

Aching at her empty sides.


And still he wheezed, his ribs barbed with thin air,

Filling the tin cup of his heart with gunpowder and rain

As copper blood pumped into his mouth,

Dried and cracking, lined with pewter, rusting as fast as memories.


He struggled like a rag doll against the pitch and pull,

His eyes flickered their spotlights into the iron dark of space,

Motionless and far, a moon quietly pinning it all together


Until every shattered star on the sable swells drifted into view,

Pooling into a dazzling form, a woman

He knew from another world,

One where the fire is low and warm,

The sugar bowl is full,

And her hands are made of sky.


She shimmered in the shine of starlight

And beckoned his wincing eyes to stay awake

Just one hour more

Till all her lovely words could sing him to the shoreline.