Three Poems about the Flute
Poem to My Flute
You’re like a magic wand
silver, gleaming white light;
I’m still afraid I’ll break you.
I’m finally learning your language,
trills and turns,
how to purse my lips and sing through you;
I spend hours with neck cricked,
arms cocked, fingers flying,
blowing breath and heart into you,
and you transmute them,
returning endless joy.
A Brief History of My Life as a Flutist
The three poems in this Hub begin to share my musical journey. Did you ever feel that one certain instrument is "yours"--that you are meant to play it? I've felt that way about the flute since I was in grade school. It seemed so ethereal and lovely, an expression of grace I feel within, despite not always projecting it. However, in grade school, I was told by my instructors that I should play clarinet, so I dutifully attempted to do that for a year or so, hating every minute of it. I did learn a smattering through that experience of how to read treble clef music. Later, in junior high and high school, I played guitar, ukulele, and harmonica and sang, but it was only after I left home for college that I found courage to buy my first flute, at a pawn shop, and begin to play. It was another two decades before I began to study seriously, as an adult re-entry student, taking electives in Music such as Beginning Woodwinds and Intermediate Orchestra. My love of Flute and application of that love as a musician grew, and in 2010, I earned a Second Bachelors Degree in Music (Flute). I continue to play regularly, and I hope to continue to improve for the rest of my life.
I sobbed and sank into the well
of the plush, brown chair.
Lost my locket,
won in a carnival skills game;
just cheap gold plate, it
turned a shy, stocky ten-year-old
Hold my flute gently in my hands,
silver-plated, closed holes—
cheap, beginner model,
yet playing, I’m transformed
as music pours through me,
habitual sadness turning to
ethereal loveliness, power, and joy.
keys sticking, tone impaired,
another expensive repair.
Somehow I will earn the money,
to once again
work the sweet alchemy
that turns this ugly duckling
into a shining white swan.
Jean-Pierre Rampal Plays Debussy's Syrinx
Play On (After Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun)
Late afternoon, and the faun
steps into the pearlescent grove,
trembling as whispered notes
melt into his basalt eyes,
iridescent sunlight dapples the grove,
his hooves strike the ground.
The vibrato, the long-blown, living breath
through Japan, China, India, Africa, America, Peru—
through flutes blown as one
long breath, one thought,
deep in and long out,
through polished wood, bone, silver, gold,
through eons-old stone instruments
unearthed alongside squat, carved goddesses—
whom one might cuddle in the palm of one’s hand,
who too-often end up spotlit, on velvet, under glass,
exhibited as “Primitive Art.”
About the Poems
While I hope that each reader will find something in these three poems that uniquely touches his/her spirit and experiences, here is a little explanation of the poems in this Hub. "Ugly Duckling" strives to express the magic that artistic expression means to me, a way to communicate the intense beauty I feel, but might not show in daily life. By association with my artistry, I feel more beautiful. That may or may not be completely ethical, since true beauty is character-based; however, we humans are not yet perfect!
"Poem to My Flute" is a poem about the awe and love I feel for the instrument, which often seems like a living entity. I feel grateful to be allowed to play it. Musical readers, perhaps you have felt the same thing when playing your chosen instruments?
Finally, "Play On" is a more complicated poem, one that acknowledges the mystery and historical power of flute playing and that laments the fact that our society often ignores or suppresses the creative and beautiful side of life as we strive in a rational manner for further industrial accomplishment. The poem also laments how an artistic person, or even simply a beautiful person (as symbolized by that artistry), is often unrealistically idolized and "worshiped," rather than treated as a human being and a friend. That leaves the artist or beautiful person alone, unfortunately.