Audiophile Audition recognizes and embraces the various art forms around music; this poem is presented in that spirit.
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.
First published in Red Earth Review, July 2017