Tuesday Poem: Shostakovich In America

Shostakovich in America

1959, November. The plumed De Soto
hammers on, freshman driver
burning up the plains.

Freedom! The Kappa Gamma Beta boys
can never catch him now. They’re back east
in the studio, where Ormandy

shrugs and starts recording.
Dmitri has better things to do. This is
his jazz age, his lost weekend.

An upstate college, denuded branches
scrawled across the moon. He nestles
in a co-ed’s bed. Dreams

drag him back to the Kremlin:
always the bottle of Georgian wine,
always the black telephone.

Dawn is coffee, hesitant smiles,
the wordless bond of night
knotting itself into language.

She is summer, America, forgetting.
“You were flailing your arms,”
she says. “Conducting.”

He kisses, disentangles, turns the key.
His car roars over the siloed plains,
eastwards into the morning.

“Shostakovich in America” was originally published in Issue 11 of Bravado magazine, and is one of the poems I plan to include in my forthcoming collection Men Briefly Explained.

Dmitri Shostakovich did visit the USA in 1959, and did record with Eugene Ormandy. The rest is imagined.

Author, poet and blogger Mary McCallum has started an initiative called “Tuesday Poem” on her blog, and suggested that other poets do likewise – posting a poem, by themselves or anothr poet, each Tuesday. I’m not promising to post a poem every Tuesday, but it sounds like a good plan to me for those who can manage this. If that’s you, then go for it – and check out Mary’s blog for news of others who are doing so.

UPDATE: I had a pleasant surprise a day after this Tuesday Poem was published – an email from the editor of the world’s only journal devoted to Dmitri Shostakovich, asking permission to reprint “Shostakovich in America” in the journal, which I was very happy to grant.

I’m beginning to come round to the Tuesday Poem way of thinking…

8 thoughts on “Tuesday Poem: Shostakovich In America

  1. Marvellous poem! I love the voice and the confidence & consistency in every line. A poem every Tues. – what a great idea. Will check it out.

  2. Thanks for this Tuesday Poem, Tim. I love the sense of freedom American-style – 'his jazz age, his lost weekend'. 'Nestles in a co-ed's bed' trips wonderfully off the tongue, and the 'branches scrawled across the moon' and Shostakovich conducting his sleep are wonderful images. The poem bears multiple readings (as I have done today). I'm looking forward to Men Briefly Explained.

  3. Thanks, Kay. Mary is keen to have more poets become involved (posting their own work and/or that of other poets, with permission of course) – please spread the word!Mary, I'm glad you liked the poem – thank you for that, and for kicking this whole thing off.

Comments are closed.