Listen to Chopin's Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2 played by Artur Rubinstein:
Chopin’s Nocturne, Opus 9
Linda Nemec Foster
What has happened to my heart? I can
hardly remember how they sing at home.
Did the strain of a mazurka
split you in two? Don’t
tell me lightning, wind,
harsh betrayal of nature –
anything that has logic.
As much logic as a Polish
composer with a French name
who wrote scores of music
for a single instrument;
who was in love with a strong
woman who adopted a man’s
name because she liked
simplicity. No logic there,
old tree, stark willow.
You probably gave Frédéric
his inspiration: one
note at a time drowning out
the sky, changing your life
from a single vision
to a double one. A split
trunk resembling a pair
of hands in prayer, bruised
fingers of the émigré. Your
country not even listed
on the map. Perhaps it wasn’t
a mazurka that cut your
heart in two: one side
listing to the West, the other
firmly planted in Mazovia,
Perhaps it was a simple
nocturne, the last fading
light before night comes
and eyes close. Music
of good-bye, farewell;
the knowledge of never
going home again. Music
of exile that almost forgets
the language of the earth.
Nocturne: Chopin in Vienna
Drawn to the cathedral’s
darkest corner, its mournful
harmony of stone, young Chopin
stands beside a Gothic pillar,
tombs behind him and beneath.
I’m only lacking one above. Soon
the nave will blaze with lights
for midnight Mass, the first
worshipers drift in. Their joy
will only fuel his melancholy.
Turning up the collar of his cloak,
he steals from the cathedral
for music at the palace. To be
distracted. To stop hearing
in his head sierota, the Polish word
for orphan. Afterwards, he paces
in his room without a view.
I’ve never felt so clearly
my loneliness. What to do?
Stay here in Vienna? Paris
tempts him. Warsaw’s home. Broods
in his dressing gown. Yesterday
he stumbled on the funeral
of a stranger, coffin bobbing
through a crowd of mourners.
He tried not to stare
at their faces slack with grief.
The gleam of the highly polished
wood courted his eyes
like an impossible lover.
Listen: Chopin's Nocturne Op. 9 No. 1 in B-flat, played by Artur Rubinstein:
Gautier wrote: “His soul weeps and hovers.”
I prefer Nietzsche’s “in him joy is ascendant.”
It is easy to spit clichés at him:
effeminate, tearful, sylph-like . . .
“Sick-room poet” hissed envious Field,
ignoring the tough musical sinews,
the brooding rebellious rages
and the political passions.
True, his wit was exquisite and birdlike
but he knew how to summon the Furies
and spoke for his ravaged nation
in accents as daring as any.
He was elegant and consumptive.
He was successful in the world
and rejoiced over his triumphs.
He loved pretty women — and was loved by them.
White and wasting he dotted
with splashes of blood his lunar pages,
carrying death like a singing bird
in his chest, his tissue held together
by dreams and bacilli. “I used to find him,”
wrote George Sand, “late at night at his piano,
pale, with haggard eyes, his hair almost standing,
and it was some minutes before he knew me.”
In Majorca, the doctors
shuddered at his blood-flecked mouth,
burned his belongings, compelled him
to take refuge in a former monastery.
“My stone cell is shaped like a coffin.
You can roar — but always in silence.”
When it stormed he wrote the ‘raindrop’ prelude
and from the thunder he fashioned an étude.
“I work a lot,” he wrote to his sister,
“I cross out all the time, I cough without measure.”
With death’s hand on his slender shoulder
he created ballades, études, nocturnes.
so much from torment? Fading swiftly
he continued to color his silences,
a condemned man refusing a blindfold.
If he sometimes wept — it was from love, not weakness.
He felt all his life the wing of death’s angel
brushing in their sleep the embracing lovers.
Can one truly sing without this terrible knowledge?
Of the many men who were haunted
by the night, its gardens and fountains,
who fathomed it as truly as this Ariel of preludes?
The piano shakes like a leaf in the darkness.
The night breathes and triumphs.
Stars and sea-winds
drift through the open window.
The ineffable nocturnes
float away like farewell whispers.
Listen: Chopin's Nocturne op. 27 no. 2 by Artur Rubinstein.
The Scarlet Hour
In red, beaded dress I
wander beaches of garnet sands
Beneath a golden sunset-drizzled
sky of painted scarlet watercolor streaks.
Holding red shoes and
Cabernet, pulling swirls of skirt to my knees
Bare feet crushing ruby grapes into rich
blood of the vine — it becomes my blood
If you were here I’d explore the
softness of your mouth, ravage its
Sweetness like a gypsy pirate alone
with her captive, your absence a sharp
Thorn piercing your tender mouth where
keening rivers run crimson
Restless seas scanned for sails on the horizon,
stretch of rubato in the Nocturnes arcs
Above the crashing surf and rushing spray.
Gulls grieve with me, overhead cries spiraling.
We wait, the foamy sea and I, for your return
For Frédéric Chopin
He sees the eternal nocturne.
All day he has been feeling
the cool of it in willow trees
on the road past golden
wheat fields. Now at the piano
light scuttles under his fingers.
He wants tones that leak life—
harvested wheat, fresh bread,
to the woman who said no. And
black butterflies whose shadowy
rhythms weep for a form that finds
fragments of perfect being—night
music where lost lovers find light.
Listen to all Chopin's Nocturnes without ads, played by Francois Chaplin
The 23rd of July
is the day of clearing karma
untying knots on the thread of fate,
breaking enchantments, reversing curses.
Look at the moon, blood-red and broken
above the hilltop, huge like ancient pain
passed on through generations.
It follows you, as you drive home
after resting in the silver mist of the ocean,
its waves - turquoise and jade - always
moving, yet always the same -
Look, the moon hides behind the black ridge
of despair, only a soft spot remains, shimmering
on alien indigo sky. The road turns, you fly along
80 miles per hour, singing a Chopin's Nocturne -
its lustrous cascade of notes split apart
by a sudden apparition - a majestic, white
platinum orb, suspended in darkness.
You remember that rust-red, once-in-the-lifetime
moon of prophecy, the fox moon that foretold
disaster as it led you back from Paso Robles, Solvang,
Santa Rosa, on the way into disillusionment and regret.
It was hard to understand. Harder to believe
in the existence of such twisted, demonic
selfishness masquerading as affection. Pitiful.
Yet the healing was real.
The lesson's learned.
The karma's cleared.
It is done.
The moon now floats high above the valley
in its bright halo, distant and indifferent.
You've discovered the virtue of detachment.
You've seen how desires of the heart
led you astray. Your life - an illumination.
Like a moonbeam, glowing on cobalt waters
of the Pacific, your path ahead is straight - clear
- dazzling - brilliant -
A Starchild, born to shine, you are blessed
by the moon's radiance on this magical
summer evening of July 23rd. You are home.
The New Age has just begun.