Neil Rathmell – writer

150+ essays on literary topics

One man and his music

I had forgotten, until I heard it on the radio yesterday, that 5 December 2017 was the tenth anniversary of the death of the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, which means that it must be ten years since, hearing that he had died, I wrote a poem about him.

I sent the poem to a now defunct poetry magazine whose editor was kind enough to say that he liked it, but not enough to publish it. That seemed to me to be a very appropriate response in view of the poem’s subject, so I left it at that and did not make any further attempt at publication.

So now, ten years on, here it is.

or One man and his music

Listening to Stockhausen
was like watching a mad shepherd
and two crazy dogs
driving a flock of sheep
down a hillside
(notes like sheep prefer
to stick together)
but when they saw
Stockhausen coming
with his crazy dogs
they panicked and scattered
all over the hillside
look there’s one
at the top of the hill
and three more in a huddle
at the bottom
and five hesitating
halfway up
(or halfway down)
and one standing
in the middle of a stream
and another
jumping over a fence
but the crazy dogs
knew this was where
he wanted them
(forget the old ways he told them
the lift the fetch the drive)
and what a picture they made
on the hillside
(beauty born of panic)
and he walked away pleased
with his crazy dogs
at his heels
leaving the startled notes
to their own devices
(panic over)
how did that happen
I wasn’t scared
were you
and now they wait for him
the mad shepherd
and try to remember
how it was when
his crazy dogs chased them
(was this how it went)
and bleating now
(why doesn’t he come)
and panicking
(he’s gone)
remember how it was
the first time
how their legs trembled

stockhausen 01

Karlheinz Stockhausen, 1928-2007

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This entry was posted on December 9, 2017 by in Literature.
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