Welcome to this month’s poetry classroom, with poet and professor David Wright. We invite you to respond to the poems we’ll share here—their forms, images, sounds, meanings, surprises—ask questions of David and each other, and write your own poems along the way.
Violin at Sea
— for Rebecca Loudon
What worries her neighbor (the one who brings her berries in bowls):
one day she will loosen her grip
and the violin will drop into the Pacific.
But he says nothing. He watches her each morning
since June, when she began playing,
ankle deep in the tide.
A quarter mile down the beach he waits for her to finish her scales
only moves near when she begins the slow improvisations:
half a partita, melody of a chorale.
Two woven themes from works he does not know
drawn him toward her and the Old German
who lives in her head, practiced essence and sense.
Today, the capplemeister and the voyeur feel sure the fiddle
will slip from her hands as she adjusts a fugue
to the violent sea, or the sea to the counterpoint of her own liquid spine.
This morning she does not sway sway, or play scales
but scatters as if she is sea spray:
oh save her, they sing in whispers.
If her instrument heads out on the waves she will, they know,
wade in after it, join it, cling to the bow like a buoy,
the horizon, her hope, an impossible score.
1. The neighbor is worried that the musician will drop her violin into the sea. Do you think he should worry?
2. What makes the horizon an impossible score? Is the musician’s hope misplaced, then?
3. Why do you suppose this musician has taken to playing ankle deep in the tide?