Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The House That Bolero Built

—Poems by Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA
—Anonymous Photos


Audacity: the only word to use
for Hector Berlioz’s overture
to King Lear. His brash testament to views
of that day on the darkest and most pure
near-nihilist embodiment of fury,
inbred political family savagery,
wrenching, stretching, snapping in rash hurry
all bonds of honor, love, truth, loyalty,
from one wild old man’s abdication. Bay,
you hounding horns—yet doesn’t all this come short
of Shakespeare’s Pyrrhic triumph of a play?
Bowed bass groans: Lear splits realm with one cleft crown.
The brusqueness of the arco: black cloud-frown?
Oboe: blunt loving Cordelia, thrust from court?
Swashbuckling allegro: Edgar wins through fray?
Judge cautiously, I tell myself, don’t damn a
curtain-raiser unequal to this drama.
Would Berlioz tamely conjure barbaric Fate?
Or does this French Lear reflect Parisian dogma?
The tacky ending (happy) by Nahum Tate?
Hail Alexander Gibson, who with Scots
orchestra tightens cyclone. Berlioz
rage glares through brass that darkens as it glows
gold. Lear’s bleak packthread paid out, twists and knots.


The house that Bolero built,
Le Belvédère in Montfort l’Amaury:
the famous composer’s name all but
rechristens the town. Montfort L’Maurice?
Hélas! Ravel’s exquisite house is closed:
that lovely gray house confected of oddments,
descending a hill with Ravelian slither,
Piano Concerto, slow movement, strangely
charmant locomotion, near-glacial grace:
we may pass by and gawk at the (tasteful) outside
frills and furbelows, Couperin ornaments pressed
upon ornaments. The belvedere-style turret capped
with scale-armor square cupola top,
each side of that top an upsweep wedding-gown-train
narrowing to the weathervane spearpoint;
the crossbow arch treatment over the rectangular window;
the curlicue ironwork struts that support the mansard door-awning;
those we may see till the Doomsday for pretty things.

But this museum house has been shuttered
by no one knows whom; caretaker Madame Moreau
has been asked with good or bad grace to depart;
when again will we come in and see the darkly
striped wallpaper, the ceramic dog, the porcelain
geisha? Surely no other house in the world
ever hosted this array of bookshelves, the lowest above
eye level, this arresting constricture of corridors,
hidden archives and alcoves. Who else but Ravel
would contrive a sidelong wall-mounted
Renaissance tented bed with bolster cylinder,
down in the basement, almost never slept in?
The Art Deco radio, speaker inlaid with strips of bright brass,
discloses a tuning fork at its design’s subtle heart.

His toiletries, all manner of vessels and
scissors and razors laid out to perfection,
the whole row of glass casques and vases
arranged nonetheless by strict Darwinian ascension,
the progress of humankind from crouch to slouch
to upright stance, growl to grunt to chaconne.

When again will we know anything like
the Erard piano on which the Left-Hand Concerto
was tested? Even that splendid instrument
crowned with the best knickknacks:
I see two ships under glass; but just one,
at the press of a hidden button, waggles
its ship like a bobblehead: riding upon
flexing stormwaves of crumpled satin.

When again the Japanese garden, rich
with lilacs, a fairytale chaos of round-clipped
shrubs, lawn lozenges, where we would
inflict the grossest of swimming pools
and hot tubs? The very walkways, inlaid
with aleatory stone flags, echo Otherworld,
indefinite realm. Ravel called it Japanese:
I think it Javanese, every stone a sliver
of gong or metallophone. Every ringing
xylophone vibration one segment in a pantoum
only Ravel would translate into notes. 

Today’s LittleNip:

Let your life lightly dance on the edges of Time like dew on the top of a leaf.

—Rabindranath Tagore


Thanks, Tom, for your fine poems today! To hear one of YouTube’s many versions of Maurice Ravel’s
Bolero to invigorate your Wednesday, go to For Hector BerliozLe Roi Lear Overture, Op. 4, go to


—Anonymous Photo 
Celebrate poetry, as it dances on the edge of Time…

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