Audiophile Audition recognizes and embraces the various art forms around music; this poem is presented in that spirit.

Elgar, Listening

In 1923, at the age of sixty-six, The Enigma Variations composer, Edward Elgar, took a voyage to Brazil, journeying up the Amazon to Manaus.  Almost nothing is known of his trip.

He leans over the steamship stern, captivated
by passing trogons, howler monkeys, butterflies

waving like ladies’ scarves.  Behind him, his work
dissipates in the boat’s wake, swirling into eddies.

Heedless of any baton, fish plash the river’s surface,
a seedpod plunges like a struck drum, insects hum,

sailors curse and call, basso profondo, while a woman
laughs in the upper registers.  He does not know

what to make of it, how to carry it back.  For
sixty-six years, he moved in one direction,

towards acclaim, security, only to open its door
on an empty room.  There, he strained for a theme.

Here, he finds too many—the tangle of lianas, humidity,
rot, rain pelting the river in sheets.  Does he have

the courage to return and do nothing, see what
germinates, brave his wife’s anxious ghost as he sits

before silent staves, ears cocked to the not yet? Fingers
tapping the splintered rail, he hears in his pulse

the laboring of great paddles, feels himself
driven, born inexorably away.

—Devon Balwit

First published in Red Earth Review, July 2017