Beyond Vienna

—Renée Schell

But what a humiliation for me when someone standing next to me heard a flute in the distance and I heard nothing, or someone heard a shepherd singing and again I heard nothing.
From the “Heiligenstadt Testament,” Beethoven, Oct. 6, 1802

Clouds heavy with rain
hang over this path along the creek.
The trees, dense with half notes, sway

and the scent of grass and grandeur,
though fleeting, fills your lungs—
that’s when rhythms rise and expand.

The tang of pine lingers on the air
like woodwinds. Wild berries flirt
with the earthy scent of oboe.

Tramping in your city shoes across
wet moss, you plead for heavy rain
to dampen the noises nestled

in your mind’s ear, for the clap
of thunder to be the jolting kind
that sends a shock up the femur,

re-locating the vibrations in your head,
or placating the incessant repetitions
that compel you to write them down.

After the summer storms you descend
to town, your satchel overflowing with
manuscripts leaking unheard-of sounds.

All of this I imagine through the closed
window of your rooms in Heiligenstadt.
Having stood some time at the shutters,

I sit now in a chair not your chair and listen
through a device you would not recognize
to an actor reading aloud the letter

to Johann and Carl, the one you never sent,
scratching your way instead through layers of rock.
Listening for obsidian, the earth’s black glass.


Third Prize winner in StringPoet contest 2014, published at

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