Leaving Brahms, an Elegy

It’s not the sadness of the sound,
though, God knows, there are parts

when the clarinet in Brahms’ quintet
slices up and down surgically searching 

for that place in my chest.
Now we come to the end of the allegro, 

where the strings marry 
for one––no two––unified sighs.

They resolve so gently, we almost 
forget the sad clarinet.

But I know you liked Bach best of all,
and there’s a certain passage

at the end of the first prelude, 
when Casals slips his fingers 

down the cello’s neck, tightening 
around the base of its throat,

and the melody rises in taut measure, 
then drifts, never quite releasing,

until suddenly, Casals saws the strings 
for all he’s worth, 

levering it back up to a crescendo,
and this time, I gasp at the power.


I play it over and over, 
those last passionate steps 

seesawing up to a space in the air
like a blister,

where everything is so raw
I can’t move.

I want to stay there––I just
want to stay there.

Tim Mayo’s poems and reviews have appeared in Narrative Magazine, Poetry International, Poet Lore, River Styx, Salamander, San Pedro River Review, Tar River Poetry, Web Del Sol Review, Verse Daily, and The Writer’s Almanac.  His collection The Kingdom of Possibilities was published by Mayapple Press in 2009. He’s a four time Pushcart Prize Nominee and has been a top finalist for the annual Paumanok Award. 

next                table of content