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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, June 11, 2018.
About this Poem 

“Sylvia Marlowe was one of the great harpsichordists of the twentieth century, a student of Nadia Boulanger and Wanda Landowska, and herself a famous teacher for many years at the Mannes School of Music in New York City. She was a close friend of my family, and I grew up listening to her recordings of Bach and Couperin and often visiting her in New York City. I have tried to translate into words my impression of her playing Bach’s preludes and fugues. Of course, the poem plays on multiple senses of fugue.”
—Rosanna Warren

Fugue, Harpsichord

For Sylvia Marlowe

Out of her left hand fled
the stream, from her right the rain
puckered the surface, drop by drop, the current

splayed in a downward daze until it hit
the waterfall, churned twigs
and leaves, smashed foam over stone:

from her fingers slid
eddies, bubbles rose, the fugue
heaved up against itself, against its own

falling: digressed in curlicues
under shadowed banks, around root tangles and
beaver-gnawed sticks. She had the face

of a pike, the thrusting lower jaw and silvered
eye, pure drive. The form
fulfilled itself

through widowhood, her skin
mottled with shingles, hands crooked, a pain
I fled. Now

that tempered tumult moves
my time into her timing. Far
beyond her dying, my

tinnitus, I am still
through the thrum of voices
trying to hear.

Copyright © 2018 by Rosanna Warren. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 11, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Rosanna Warren. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 11, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Rosanna Warren

Rosanna Warren

Born in 1953, Rosanna Warren is the author of several poetry collections and served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

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(Gwen John, Painter, Rodin’s Model)

Cinnabar, Phoenician red, wild
         geranium—to be played against
         olive and smoky lime, a
mercury luster: quicksilver
         the soul, most visible
         in the empty room. Who saw

the wicker armchair open like Danae

poem
You stand in the brook, mud smearing
your forearms, a bloodied mosquito on your brow,
your yellow T-shirt dampened to your chest
as the current flees between your legs,
amber, verdigris, unraveling
today’s story, last night's travail . . .

You stare at the father beaver, eye to eye,
but he outstares you—you who