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About this Poem 

“Oddly though I had no gifts as a musician, when physically making music I always enjoyed the way images volunteered in my mind along with the music. I believe Denise Levertov wrote an interesting essay on this with respect to Rilke and cows crying out in wild pasturage—also something about playing the grooves on the inner skull of human beings with a cactus stylus in the early tradition of the phonograph. Anyhow, I think it’s safe to say that, for my family, my music lessons in the house were very painful like hanging from a cross.”
—Norman Dubie

Trombone

There were carols on the kitchen radio, a late
cold night, entering the room
while straightening the blistered Navajo rug, I
remembered suddenly what the first eight notes
of hark, the herald angels sing felt like
vibrating through my body that first time—
I was eleven and unprepared,
I remembered when I was ten
and fainting in church from the sweet ammonia of Easter lilies
hosing my nostrils with fragrance
and also the emptiness of it—the lord of the dance,
in an arc of agony, up on sticks…

Copyright © 2016 Norman Dubie. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2016 Norman Dubie. Used with permission of the author.

Norman Dubie

Norman Dubie

The author of numerous collections of poetry, Norman Dubie is the recipient of the Bess Hokin Prize and the 2012 PEN Center USA Literary Award for Poetry, as well as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others.

by this poet

poem
                     —an ars poetica


I remember the death, in Russia,
of postage stamps 
like immense museum masterpieces
patchwork
wrapped in linen, tea stained,
with hemp for strapping...

these colored stamps designed for foreign places
were even printed during famine—
so when they vanished, so did
poem
In the cold heavy rain, through
its poor lens, 
a woman
who might be a man
writes with a can of blue paint
large numbers
on the sides of beached whales—

even on the small one who is still
living, heaving 
there next to its darkening mother
where the very air is a turnstile…

I’m certain this woman is moved
as
poem
You were never told, Mother, how old Illya  was drunk
That last holiday, for five days and nights

He stumbled through Petersburg forming
A choir of mutes, he dressed them in pink ascension gowns

And, then, sold Father's Tirietz stallion so to rent
A hall for his Christmas recital: the audience

Was rowdy but