Catchy Tunes

By Robert Thomas Robert Thomas
It’s not just this. Every written word is a suicide note.
And a love letter, too.

There may be no one to talk to who would get it,
but if you write it down maybe someone will get it after you’ve left the room,

or in five hundred years, or maybe someone from Sirius, the Dog Star,
will get it. The composer Karlheinz Stockhausen

claimed he was born on Sirius. You remember him:
the genius who said the crashing of planes

into the World Trade Center was the greatest concert ever held,
although he later conceded the audience had not been given the option

to not attend
and that somewhat diminished its perfection.

I heard Stockhausen interviewed at Davies Symphony Hall
before the orchestra played one of   his works

that sounded to me like the voices of   the parents
in A Charlie Brown Christmas if they’d been arguing about real estate.

No, I was not impressed by Karlheinz.
His daughter Christel was a flautist in the orchestra,

and she joined him for the interview
and said her father would take her and her brother out on the lawn

of their summer house outside Cologne
(this was years before he was on the cover of   Sgt. Pepper)

and teach them to read each constellation
as notes on a stave and to sing

the words of their favorite nursery rhymes to the stars’
melody: “The dog ran away in the snow” and

“Go get the sleigh in the cellar.” It was a game
but it was hard: work and play at once.

Their father explained to them,
“God does not write catchy tunes.”

You could tell she meant it to be a charming story,
but the audience sat in silence.

Suffer the little children.

Source: Poetry (July/August 2013).


This poem originally appeared in the July/August 2013 issue of Poetry magazine

July/August 2013
 Robert  Thomas


Robert Thomas is the author of Bridge (BOA Editions, 2014), Dragging the Lake (Carnegie Mellon, 2006), and Door to Door (Fordham, 2002), which was chosen by Yusef Komunyakaa for the Poets Out Loud Prize. He has received an NEA poetry fellowship and won a Pushcart Prize.

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Poems by Robert Thomas

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SUBJECT Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Arts & Sciences, Music

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