Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review


Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review


Article excerpt

The first time I heard Ravel's Pavane for a Dead Princess

I was in band practice at Lawrence High School. Our stands

Held the dog-Barred parts-Horn 1 & 2, and Solo Horn

Which George Gellis got to play so soulfully

That Sue Meyer, Jane Furchgott, and I hated to add

Our uncertain sound. Some days I was in love with Jane

Who was angelicly pretty but had an acne problem.

And Sue was mv friend, the older sister I'd gladly have traded

My real sister for. The first time I heard that melody

Glide like a river of silk out of George Gellis's horn

I couldn't understand how it had been given to an arrogant senior,

Who either despised or simply ignored me, to say

The saddest, most beautiful thing that had ever been said.

How could he know it, or translate it off the page?

And I never envied anything more than to play that melody

With that sound as if George had been sheathed in golden armor

And I, with a few bars of accompaniment and lots of rests,

Was his page, two chairs-and several miles-away.

Music aside, I wanted a sorrow that mournful

For my own. And two years later, when Sue

Went off to college and died freshman year

Falling through the ice at a school camp in northern Michigan

While walking across the lake at night with her boyfriend,

I would sit at the piano and swoon out that Pavane.

Always it brought her back to me, and I count up my life

Since I was seventeen, the age she died,

As though I could answer her last letter to me again. …

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