We have a blackboard in our living room where my wife likes to keep a poem handy (though, for the last eight months, a child's alpine landscape usurped the poetry spot). Today's blackboard special is:
We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.
A red wing rose in the darkness.
And suddenly a hare ran across the road.
One of us pointed to it with his hand.
That was long ago. Today neither of them is alive,
Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.
O my love, where are they, where are they going
The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.
I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.
By Czeslaw Milosz, from The Collected Poems 1931-1987, translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Lillian Vallee
Whatever hoary past Milosz was referring to in Poland in 1936, he also seemed to be anticipating a future that would wipe out whole libraries of such memories. The cataclysm came, and the knowledge that it did intensifies the vividness of his imagery. But for me this is also a poem about music - specifically, the experience of listening to music, and trying to catch wisps of sound as they dissipate into the past. Most concerts - even great, powerful concerts - slide off my brain after a couple of weeks. I am constantly stumbling across reviews I have written of evenings I adored that have now more or less evaporated, leaving only a residue of pleasant associations. I'm not sure that I would wish to recall more exactly or more thoroughly, though. Some moments come to me in short, sharp bursts of memory: the haunted-house sounds of George Crumb's Black Angels that I first heard as a teenager; the hair-raising gallop of the finale of Beethoven's Seventh in an outdoor concert in Vienna; the second violins and violas slipping like seals through dark waters of counterpoint in a New England Conservatory performance of Brahms's Second, conducted by Leon Kirchner; a jellifying Firebird that Valery Gergiev led; the timeless glide through Messiaen's Saint François d'Assise in San Francisco. Those are my pointing finger, my darting hare.
— Justin Davidson