Dissonance Royal Traveller

By Barbara Guest 1920–2006 Barbara Guest
sound opens sound

shank of globe             strings floating out

                something like images are here

                opening up avenues to view a dome

       a distant clang reaches the edifice.


                understanding what it means
                to understand music

       cloudless movement   beyond the neck’s reach

       an hypnotic lull in porcelain   water break   mimics

       tonality   crunch of salad under waddling

                a small seizure
                from monumentality

                does not come or go   with understanding

       the path will end

       birdhouse    of trembling cotton

       or dream   expelled it   

       parcel   on the landlocked moor.


                              explaining music

       and their clothes entangled

       who walk into a puddle of minnows;

                      minnows in a bowl

       consonant with water.

the drifted footpad

       ambushed by reeds signals the listening


                              music disappears into oars.


       in the middle the world is brown;

       on the opposite side of the earth

       an aroma of scarlet.

       this accompanies our hearing music;

       the sleeve of heaven

       and the hoof of earth

       loosed from their garrison.

       dissonance may abandon miserere

       on bruised knee hasten to the idol.   


       and what is consonance—the recluse—

       entering and exiting   

       as often as a monarch butterfly   

       touches a season;

       by accident grips the burning flowers.

       in the stops between terror

       the moon aflame on its plaza.


       autumn of rippling wind

       and the noise of baskets

       smell of tin fists.

       and harsh fists   

       on the waterfall changing the season;

       the horse romps in flax

       a cardboard feature

       creating a cycle of flax.

               music imagines this cardboard

       horse in cardboard jacket

               flagrant the ragged grove

                              red summit red.

       dissonance royal traveller

                              altered the red saddle.                        

Barbara Guest, “Dissonance Royal Traveller” from Defensive Rapture, Copyright 1993 by Barbara Guest, Sun & Moon Press, in The Collected Poems by Barbara Guest, Wesleyan University Press and reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press. www.wesleyan.edu/wespress

Source: The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest (Wesleyan University Press, 2008)

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Poet Barbara Guest 1920–2006

SCHOOL / PERIOD New York School

Subjects Relationships, Pets, Nature, Fall, Arts & Sciences, Music, Language & Linguistics

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Barbara  Guest


Barbara Guest rose to prominence in the late 1950s as a member of an informal group of writers known as the New York school of poets whose membership included Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, and James Schuyler. Their innovative approach to poetry was influenced by modern art, especially surrealism and abstract expressionism. Guest drew on her own background in art (she worked for Art News magazine in the 1950s) to create poetry . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Pets, Nature, Fall, Arts & Sciences, Music, Language & Linguistics

SCHOOL / PERIOD New York School

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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