This summer The Well is featuring a series of poems by women. Ruth Goring invites you to approach them curiously and meditatively
"Listening to Beethoven’s Fifth"
by Jeanne Murray Walker
Thunder growls hatred. Lightning
torches the clouds. What can we do now
but ride out disaster
as trees toss their necks like stallions,
as the carnal rain swamps us?
Dot, dot, dot, dash. It’s the Fifth.
Old Ludwig having his way again,
the stooped deaf magician turning his wheel so the craft will slip through,
the violins cutting the waves,
timpani puffing out like sails.
I am thinking how inclement news—
the lump invading my dear friend’s body—
threads its signal to my reptilian brain-stem,
passing its code to the cerebral cortex, then
how the order faithfully goes out
to check ruptures and neurofibrillary tangles,
to hold against dementia and despair.
As we sit, hands folded in our laps,
ranks and ranks of us, wedding rings,
cuticles, everything groomed and listening,
how near disaster lurks—bollixed messages,
finger hinges not opening on command,
some small failure swelling to commotion
till chaos flashes in the circuits
and then it’s all-out war, words
snapping like masts in the pouring
dark. And who will save us?
It is a mystery, how we pick our way,
repeat old codes, how V stands for both five and victory,
how, years after Beethoven died,
Morse made dot, dot, dot, dash depict
the letter V. How that code for victory
sang above the dissonance of war
to the starving French all that Nazi winter:
Dot, dot, dot, dash. How we
rage, love, survive.
This poem can be found in Helping the Morning by Jeanne Murray Walker.
Photo by Travel Photographer from StockSnap.