Interval: Poems Based On Bach's

Interval: Poems Based On Bach's "Goldberg Variations"

by Alice B. Fogel


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781936182725
Publisher: Schaffner Press, Inc.
Publication date: 04/01/2015
Pages: 64
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

Alice B. Fogel is the poet laureate of New Hampshire and works both as a teacher of creative writing at Keene State College and as an academic support tutor at Landmark College. She is the author of three poetry collections: Be That Empty, a National Poetry Foundation bestseller, and Strange Terrain: A Poetry Handbook for the Reluctant Reader. Her poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, and has been nominated six times for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in Acworth, New Hampshire.

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Poems Based on Bach's "Goldberg Variations"

By Alice B. Fogel

Schaffner Press

Copyright © 2015 Alice B. Fogel
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-936182-75-6



    All phases have beauty. Or in shaping time
    was Bach lost to all but the count, not consonance?

    One in the other, carriage and contained,
    body and spirit, hitched, indivisible:

    From the ground up with fractal scaffolding
    he built his arc, this liquid bridge for the daily

    practice of sameness, sequence, awaking
    change, the brief, the sustained — and the enduring

    whole bears as one all notes, as one word might
    all said or sung. Where does it come from, the material

    of the beautiful? And how aligned or skewed
    toward discord, how reasoned with ardor and risk,

    how little or much design or dumbfound —
    how can we know? Grave, heavenly,

    like the illumined face of a god rubbed from stone,
    these breaths so wholly numbered and numinous ?

    A mere miracle of physics? Mathematics' holy writ?
    Most musical web of ordered intervals framed

    by symmetry, division, multiples — most melancholy
    joy: Ten parallel horizons zenithed

    toward always, thirty-two limiting longitudes:
    A language, a form, a key. God, Johann: When in thrall

    a pianist's hands arch intimate
    to make the passage — to touch

    your immortal body — it is as if the finite, bound,
    has unwound when your now becomes now anew,

    now mine. As if thresholds allowed recrossing: Forever
    to be content, a soul at home, with a life like art

    more puzzle than plan, more flight than counterweight,
    the perfect grid of abiding piers upon which you

    superimpose the moving force
    of brilliant ephemera ...

    Variation 1: Yhwh

    Explode from the cauldron dark,
    that's what I'd do for them: That in mind into self

    and other I divided. In and in I overlapped in density
    and where I was gravid I breathed their breaths.

    With my body like a brine spiraling I stirred
    the silence till it echoed apart from me, and where I

    was deafened I hummed their frequencies.
    From a floating ground I fired rounds of clouds

    flaming and where they burned I brewed the rutilated
    light till it refracted in the wells between comets rocketing.

    In and in through the ancient rooms I fell and where
    there were thresholds I left them canyons gorgeous

    and aggrieved. Flung wide, electrified, I striated skies
    with ellipsis, color, collapse, shot suns past

    eclipse, blew the air for sound to sound
    from touch, touched them till they cried in ecstacy:

    Out and out and through the skin my sweat
    ran and poured into hollows so where I emptied

    they filled and though I encompassed
    they merely contained. Into the molten cavity I

    dropped a stone, I lit the furnace, stretched a hide.
    I wielded the ragged white-veined ice and birthed

    spinning galaxies in atoms, vital alluvium, the eternal
    quest for me. I remembered and made them

    forget. I raged and sweetened them. Formless then
    I dimensioned space, delineated them. I swallowed

    my own throat to feed them hungers delicious.
    Where I could not pass I corridored their heavens.

    Where I felt nothing I caused them passion and urge.
    I watch them and they are blind to me.

    I lie awake, and they dream.
    I cry out to them, and they die.

    Variation 2: Interval

        If in the temporal world
        of the measure

        of plenitude that spans
        the vast interstice

        hanging in the balance
        between the invocation

        and the prayer — O
        holiest interval — there

        were no mercy and God
        the invention said yes

        I'm here you rang
        why tarry Say

        yes yes I am ready
        Death is for being

        with finitude:

    If in the temporal plenitude
    the measured world hung

    in that vast spin If in the world
    of interstice measured in balanced spans

    If in the hung invocation — O Lord —
    / — O World! — the prayer were no mercy

    If God tarried in if If in the unmeasurable interval
    the holy plenitude of yes a merciful intervention

    If God rang in the balance
    between here and the holy

    why why invoke the vast tally if
    between ready and death God said yes

    you prayerful span of being
    I am done I am death

    for finitude why say
    if why is.

    Variation 3: Snapping turtle

    Borne forward by extended increments.
        Crawling waterward from this weed wilted shore.

    Like small furred voles skittering inward, taking little
        grounded, mirrored steps: Like this, intervals of ice

    ridge and rime the pond rim. By night. As if
        by dreaming ice might cast its million limbs

    over that surface above. Its frozen tincture
        outfolding farther, farther unfurling across. By dawn:

    The moonspread scales then a foregone conclusion.
        Constructed, transmutable truth: All day ice

    shrinking from the light, reconsidering.
        And still, in leaving, leaving its lingering

    doubt, pale shadow of wingspan edgebound.
        Near. Then again in dark the cold falling, fallen

    to glow on the meniscus, ice groping forward with more
        sliding white. Ice: Its own logic, growing:

    Its horizontal precipice. Its glass
        carapace. Night's cold and hoary

    frost. Vaster still till all its heirs' outstretched
        tips interslip, imprint with their ferny whorls

    an entire span between lands.
        To travel that unthinkably far! And then, having reached

    to cry out more room! — crack
        like a shell, heave between its crushing shores.

    But which pressing which? And what boundary
        divides water from ice, what self

    solidifies against self, which is water — host or
        whore? Ice now in spring dissolving, dissolute

    reversal by increments retreating. Not I,
        alive, here mudnudged under eaves, forming

    my young egg by egg, mother's lasting bequest.
        To nest once in heat. To hatch and be born.

    Variation 4: Child

    When I asked them at breakfast I said
    when will I get the shots? and what shots?

    Mama said, and how could she forget
    that dog, the way the eagle circled over me,

    I thought at first it would hurt me but it had lifting
    me in the sky on its mind, rescue

    from the dog who was pale and foamed
    like the river sometimes does and she

    scared the eagle away. So amazed I said
    don't you remember the bite?

    and she smiled and it was true
    it had healed overnight. Behind Mama's door

    I hid myself where only her long mirror is allowed
    to see me cry and him the size a person ought to be.

    Just one making two, crayon-crayons
    touching like a kiss we drew together

    one tree between, and I liked the way his hand
    was my hand too. The tree grew out of a rock

    the way I saw them down by the river
    and I said I will hurry up and waste no time

    and he said I will slow down like a tree
    that loves a rock so well it will grow from it

    and I laughed because they don't
    know, because when I asked where

    will you go when you die and who
    will love me then she said a little thing

    like dying is not enough
    to kill my love for you but tomorrow

    I will have to ask again because look
    what happened with the eagle and the dog

    that she forgot today. I am the only one
    around here who knows.

    Variation 5: Spinning

    spinning I thought I might not yet infuse
        myself not yet breathe my life into a living thing

    I would not embody I breathed was breath
    gathered in and unspooled out rhythm lung folding

        fan expanding and contracting in
    in spin I was dizzying

        the dust scattering debris of meteors splintering
    memory oncoming I spilled in and out infinities looping

    back and back through empty airless corridors
        banks of starless dark

    spun and lapped and webbed I traveled far
        made no choice fast unfastened spinning free

    I was winds of unsung atmospheres a legend of spinning
    heavens their planets and the great unbreathing spaces

        between down to universes
    down to spiral and parallel

    spinning I thought I'd play one planet in symmetry
        in spin I breathed

    was breath was the whirled breaths of all the living the being
    as yet and not yet the wheeled and flared breath spinning

        and splitting the eye inside unseeing and I
    the spinning the world breath living wind I so close

        but still not choosing spinning until
    brushed by the rush of solids against winds

    until like a lintel I was the place between them above
        the surface where cliffs crest hard broken

    through crust risen and bound back down
        where water and wetlands slide and tie

    the moon to mountainsides where earth's skin meets
    the smoothing the sculpting resistant winds

        of all the infinite rest still I was this the spinning
    thin membrane of distance between them

    Variation 6: Snake

    Have use of edges.
    Alongside field — crosshatch trees

    to their meadow pedestal.
    Way is seam

    here beneath eaves where when further
    forest rises and effaces sun

    camouflaging silver bleed
    congeals. Smaller than rivers

    go sleek like rivers and like
    rivers slip unseen

    below earthly surface things —
    pour with invisible volition

    between storm-tamped
    weeds — slip clear

    through stone to lick
    fresh linings of eggs.

    Chromatic curvature — scale
    horizon's arc littered with all

    closest slightest movements
    of toad and vole — small

    measures of hungry sight.
    More beautiful than wind more

    grounded than birds
    more clever and calm

    than time what more
    need for body than this:

    To crush sloughed leaves
    with slim sounds no louder in heaven

    than none — migrate
    through tunnel skin meant to briefly

    burrow in — emerge
    clean removed and hunt whole again.

    Variation 7: Girl

    I never told you because you'd make this big fuss
    and do some fucking ritualistic

    cherry-tree-in-the-yard sort of thing —/— oh

    you never told me it would be like something hot liquifying
    my thighs, like a hot seabed dragging its craggy stones

    down my back./In fact you never mentioned this:/
    intrusion from within./
— Just because your mother wouldn't

    talk about it and her mother slapped her face
    and who knows what all the mothers did before that,

    cover them with earth and wine, chant hymns to the goddess.
    If I ever have a daughter here's all I'm going to do:

    say, That's nice honey, or You go girl, or whatever
    is hip when she's 13 and let her pierce anything she wants.

    /Or the stain like a tattooed rose on my clothes.
    Can I please stay home?

    /I'm fine./Well maybe unsteady on my feet
    as if just coming to shore. Rocking, rocking. Mutiny.

    Strange lands. I spiral that island, spinning, aswim.

    /Yeah I know I can get pregnant now, but I'm not

    planning to just yet. Don't worry, Mom,
    I think I can give you till my junior year at least.

    Why do you need to know that? — I threw them way.
    I gave them to my boyfriend, I'm making a pillow.

    Maybe I burned them — with incense
    and smudge sticks and a ring of virgin girls./

    You can put your hand over my forehead/
stop talking. I already know what to do./

    Cross the moat to the haunted house, that ancient castle
    of rooms inside rooms that just opened one more door.

/whatever/we'll plant flowers where I buried
    the panties./Fucking flowers, Mom./Maybe they'll even grow.

    Variation 8: Request

    It is the watershed of blood that I want, and all
    other salty smooth liquids: Semen, vaginal waters

    elastic and streaked, sweat in its miniscule pearled
    drops or as streams, saliva, urine, tears. Blood

    will sustain, shape and color me, contain
    itself in a skin to stay within or seep beyond.

    Skin is what I need, a paper to inscribe and swirl
    my design upon. Skin to press to the ground,

    skin to press into skin or soft tissue, slender cells
    that expand and fill within as organ, or as muscle.

    It is muscle that I want, fists of firm fluidity
    thriving inside, curving to move the movable.

    Uterus. Tongue. Heart. Penis muscling its skin
    upward with blood. Long veins to stretch and harden

    through muscle into tendon, ligament:
    God, for the lineaments of a life:

    The blessed limit to where I can go, who to be, body
    formed finally and only of luck

    and called biology. All of a piece: Blood's
    same substance for its arteries, same material for its skin,

    muscle, tendon, pain and range, and a name solid as bone:
    All the matter that matters, all the life that lives.

    Oh I must have the bones, that plain rigidity.
    Give me flute and hammer, socket, ball

    and skull. To stand up on my own confined
    soles, open only so wide my only two human

    blooded, breakable arms! That I might come entering
    the seed of a new inkling, the knowing that I am,

    the beginning and the end, and reach
    the air with bones and blood and skin crying aloud because

    it is breath, breath, breath that I want, and my own
    hollows to heave it through.

    Variation 9: Potter

    Wheel of becoming, wheel of twin firmaments, I work you round
        wheel of becoming, wheel of twin seasons, earth cupped

    firmaments, I work you round in my rough hands, slip water
        seasons, earth cupped over the island

    in my rough hands, slip water of clay on the heavenmost
        over the island circle, warm to the fire

    of clay on the heavenmost of friction turning under my feet
        circle, warm to the fire its body upraised with breath

    of friction turning under my feet I pull past each shape
        its body upraised with breath my own surface in flux over the bending

    I pull past each shape bones within, the clay changing
        my own surface in flux over the bending like air exhaled by the moment

    bones within, the clay changing and my fingertips lose their swirling
        like air exhaled by the moment lines that imprint me as unique

    and my fingertips lose their swirling fill with the swelling red medium
        lines that imprint me as unique predicting my future

    fill with the swelling red medium absence
        predicting my future at the same time

    absence the clay takes my identity
        at the same time stealing the infinitesimal designs

    the clay takes my identity of my skin for its own smooth side
        stealing the infinitesimal designs another and another shape it isn't

    of my skin for its own smooth side taking its place in, in the spinning nape
        another and another shape it isn't of its risen working, its sliding

    taking its place in, in the spinning nape ride between opposing fissions
        of its risen working, its sliding of my fingertips soon one "I" fixed

    ride between opposing fissions in time, after all the spun
        of my fingertips soon one "I" fixed worlds of I's

    in time, after all the spun but
        worlds of I's not yet

    but not yet
        not yet, not yet.

    Variation 10: Moths

    Long once, hung from oaks, dangled rungs of boneless
    flesh webbed in open nets among branches, the green

    edgy leaves rotten limp. Fantastic scourge of furred
    black columns balanced from lanky cords spit

    from our own dumbstruck mouths. O the life in the trees,
    our weighted fringe slung over roofs and streets, that rapt

    business of crawling in the sun, the great solidity.
    Now our dank houses tight wound all down our sides —

    all sides that we are — and what did we do to deserve this wrap
    inside time out outside of time, hidden, as if repentant

    and intent upon resurrection? Our only actuality anticipation,
    so becoming to itself. What do you take us for?

    All right, it's true, we're lying here stupid, duped.
    So that after this, all at once one fine night, shaken,

    we can come to as little moths, cute
    and foolish as flakes of summer snow and all for what —

    we ask you. One slanting flurry of florid white wing
    spilling, one feeble pulse of flight against the wrist

    of one midnight: at dawn dismissed
    to wisp and stillness, royal carpets of broken

    wing flipped and swept across the expanse
    and left to highlight every crack already veined

    on roadways. Should we look forward to a flick
    of life first as circle and cloud amassed

    at streetlamps and then dropped, nearly done for,
    a sweep of creeping outline, a brief and pallid grout

    between the permanent stones? O we
    once the sinewed, we the firm, we the chewing length

    of leaf and stem squirm and warm, banned
    to those slight cursive runes scrawled into crevices

    and coiled along ditches like over-elongated reminiscences,
    mere wan traces, of our darker former selves.

    Variation 11: Reflection

    Out in the center, canoe and you no cause
    for interruption (only

        wingless here while hovering)
        deep into water's overlaps the moon's

        fractures fold and flow, flow and fold and fracture.
        Look down long enough, out here on the lake

        afloat, surrounded by (and on) the dark lap
    lapping, the long wet folded fan moon, stippled

    length of twine moon, broken linked moon
        hanging its white chains down

        (as if down)
        into depths only visible

        horizontally, and all that dripped thick liquid
    ellipsis seems its own true form. Pierced

        by lunar rays, by turns
    the ponderous bass diminish and flash

    bleeding upward from beneath
        into the gleam and reach

        of lit glissando. Opaque, steady
        above all, the cool sky scoops

        all that soaked, unskeined light up
        into one flat coin, one disk like a wrist-

    flicked stone you once skimmed like this
    from shore that left no trail

    of white. Fixed, dry, nearly
        untouched, still that full moon pulled down

    here across the waving layers
        of slick lake slapping and

    licking the gunwales skips downward, through
    and through, illuminating water's

    (buried and drowned)
    ground by ruse.

    Variation 12: Happy Prince statue's bird

    You, bejewelled as the pharoahs,
    could have emptied the purse of winds

    scented with snow and asked for nothing more.
    But take my ruby, you wished, to the seamstress,

    my emeralds to the match girl crying in the rain.

    How did you know — with only stones to show

    street lamps' reflection on your face — to feed
    the hungry each one crust? Feet of clay, you

    didn't need eyes, gem or otherwise. Nor ears
    to hear the ceaseless weeping from gutter

    to garrett, nor voice to persuade me to give
    what wasn't mine to take. Let me fly to Egypt

I'd hum, though I grow numb
    with cold today.
As if possessed, against

    my will, I kept stripping between the blades
    of my beak all the gold that clothed you.

    I sowed it in the streets where the poor cherished
    and traded it for bread and ale and time

    already running out. Already winter.
    Too late for migration. Too late even for you

    who could not go on and on giving because,
    foolish Prince, suffering is by far a greater cache

    than gold. Beloved, you don't need a body
    to feel the yearning of a soul. While the living's palm

    still like a tomb lies bare, all that giving lost
    in the streets' turns and fares, both of us once gilded

    break, flung down from the pedestal, bereft.
    Too late to warm me, your body burnt,

    your heart beside me scarab-bright and shining
    in the dust. Too late for the Nile, your ashes flying

    over the city like swallows
    leaving for the south.


Excerpted from Interval by Alice B. Fogel. Copyright © 2015 Alice B. Fogel. Excerpted by permission of Schaffner Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Genesis and Process: The Making of ITL[Interval]ITL,
Variation 1: Yhwh,
Variation 2: Interval,
Variation 3: Snapping turtle,
Variation 4: Child,
Variation 5: Spinning,
Variation 6: Snake,
Variation 7: Girl,
Variation 8: Request,
Variation 9: Potter,
Variation 10: Moths,
Variation 11: Reflection,
Variation 12: Happy Prince statue's bird,
Variation 13: Artist,
Variation 14: Here after,
Variation 15: Woman at the dam,
Variation 16: Actor,
Variation 17: Like waking,
Variation 18: Baker,
Variation 19: Fish,
Variation 20: Duration,
Variation 21: Dying man,
Variation 22: Equivocator,
Variation 23: Teatime,
Variation 24: Leatherman,
Variation 25: Freed slave,
Variation 26: Winter solstice,
Variation 27: Awakener,
Variation 28: Transplanted heart,
Variation 29: Boats,
Variation 30: Husband,
About the Author,

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