I'm not sure where I first heard about this poetry collection but I somehow knew that Marie Howe wrote it in the wake of her brother's death and I read it deliberately, wondering if I would see anything of myself. Parts of it were very dark and disturbing, which may seem like an obvious thing to say in re a book about loss and death and grief, but unexpectedly it was the first part, about her childhood, which I found the most difficult.
There are three poems I really loved, the title poem being one of them and this being another. I'm always pleased to come across a poem that has something to do with music, always and ever curious about what it means to someone else given what it means to me (and yet I am so poor at describing it!).
Without Music by Marie Howe
Only the car radio
driving from the drugstore to the restaurant to his apartment:
rock and roll, oldies but goodies,
and sometimes, softly, piano music
rising from the piano teacher's apartment on the first floor.
Most of it happened without music,
the clink of a spoon from the kitchen,
someone talking. Silence.
Somebody sleeping. Someone watching somebody sleep.
* * *
I heard this again accidentally over the weekend and like the book it deals with the darkest things. I was a brand new mother when the record came out and this song made me so sad and not in a natural way. Even now I never really seek it out and when it does find me it stays in my head haunting me for days. This is a beautiful performance of it, her voice every bit as pure, strong and lovely as on the record and I love how with the back up singer she manages to get that same incredible gooseflesh raising soaring ache on the chorus. Brilliant. But someone play something dancey quick!