A Musical Detour
So here’s something that has little to do with Tajikistan: some time ago my friend Justin Johns, who is now working on his Master’s in Composition at the University of Florida, asked me and several others to contribute texts which he would put to music. I offered up a few sonnets, then subsequently forgot about the project. But Justin recently sent me the results, and I was very impressed. He’s a talented guy, with a flair for vocal composition heavily influenced by sacred music. He even wrote his own mass. He posts the work he is doing now here.
As with anything like this, I cringe a little looking back on poems I wrote a few years ago, but I quite liked the work Justin did with the pieces. It’s a flattering thing to see one’s work used this way. So here they are, with the text following each composition. (note: In Praise of Forgetfulness underwent some editing, so the text here may not match word-for-word with the sung text)
This patterned absence: shadow leaves on snow,
a strain of music on the wind, a wisp
of scent you lose in passing. Subtle gifts
are given in his place, and somehow known
as traces, tracks left by some animal,
who, great as men are great, would naturally
impress himself on his surroundings, I
reason, not willing to admit that all
the tears aside a door will be a door
without his heavy knock, a book will be
a book without his voice. The way I see
him missed in his apartment’s dusty floor
persists, as dust persists, but then again
did not the dust itself once pass—to man?
Angel: Why stand you staring after him?
He’s gone but he will soon return again,
And you will drown in floods of glory when
He rends the earth’s thin veil, but do not swim,
Inhale. Yet while you breathe stale air, I say:
Do not forget what wonder round about
Enshrines your dry dust path. Soon you will doubt,
It will be long, you will not know the way
But do not be so foolish as to think
That dust is dust, and not the stuff God’s hands
Made into you, that man is only man,
And not the image of the great unseen.
So now go forth, shake temples, shudder kings.
Go forth! This world must shatter ere it sings.