David Kirby Poems

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Get Up, Please

The two musicians pour forth their souls abroad
in such an ecstasy as to charm the audience
like none I've ever seen before, and when

This Magic Moment

Poetry does make things happen. A friend says, "I wanted
to let you know that my stepfather is chattering like
a schoolboy about a poem of yours on my Facebook page.
This may not seem like much to you, but this guy has been

Come to Find Out

That's what my mother and her sisters used to say
on the porch late at night when they thought I wasn't
listening: He said he had to travel so much because
his job was in sales, but come to find out he had a wife
and a whole other family in Breaux Bridge or he said
he was a captain and got wounded in the war; come to
find out he never rose above private and damn sure

never saw active service, excuse the language.
Come to Find Out meant that something was going
to be revealed and in that way was a cousin to All Is
Not As It Seems and One Thing Led to Another,
which suggests that the second thing reveals or
in some way at least echoes the first. And then there
was What Was I Thinking, the answer to which

was almost always You Weren't, though sometimes
you were: she's not very bright so I'll have my way
with her or he'll stay home and keep house and I'll pay
the bills or who needs health insurance. What'd you
think, those babies were going to feed
themselves and change their own diapers? Oh, if only
life were like the opera, where you can say what

you think about somebody while you're standing
right next to them, yet they don't seem to hear you.
Actually, a better verb is "sing": apparently you can
mouth the most wounding insults and get away without
being slapped or stabbed as long as you dress them
in eighth-note triplets. Art says to us, What do you
want to be true, and then it gives us all these choices:

you can do whatever you like or, if you prefer,
nothing at all. No wonder some people hate it,
though I say, Thank you, art! Thank you, opera, plays,
movies, things you hang on a wall or put on a pedestal!
Thank you, poems of every length, from the Inferno
to a haiku, provided the haiku poet puts as much time
into his or her poem as Dante put into his! Which seems

unlikely, but we're trying to uphold standards here,
right, reader? Thank you, symphony orchestras
and flash mobs—what could be better than going to
your local Walmart to buy a sack of onions, some puppy
biscuits, and a carton of smokes only to be surprised
by a guy pulling a sax out of a box and being joined
by a woman with a bassoon, three string players,

and a twenty-person chorus who launch into "Ode to Joy,"
an 1785 Friedrich Schiller poem that becomes the final
movement of the Ninth Symphony by celebrated German
composer/pianist Ludwig van Beethoven! It's 1796 now,
and come to find out Beethoven's losing his hearing,
possibly from typhus, systemic lupus erythematosus,
or even his habit of immersing his head in cold water

to stay awake. He stops performing, though he continues
to compose. He also avoids conversation. Talk is cheap!
He digs in, though, writes the Fifth Symphony that begins
with the four most famous notes in musical history, notes
that, as he himself said, sound like Fate knocking
at the door. Then another symphony and another
and another still, till he writes the Ninth, the one whose

opening fanfare is said to have put a lump even
in Hitler's throat. Come to find out art works the same
way on everybody; you could be a pirate or a headsman
or the pope or the owner of a dry cleaning establishment
and still laugh as Punch and Judy throw pots and pans
at each other, weep when the soprano sings
of the lover, the land, the mother she'll never see again.

Everybody's got a story, and half the time there's a story
behind the story, and in half of the cases that are like that,
we'll never know what it is. But you can go your whole
day without hearing any music at all, and then you can
talk to or buy a carton of tomatoes from or just pass by
somebody who has; one thing leads to another in this
world, and the next thing you know, you're happy.

A Few Old Things

Rilke said he wanted a room "with a few old things
and a window opening onto great trees," which makes
me think of my favorite rooms and their furnishings,
an obvious choice being this brightly-lit bedroom,
newspapers and coffee cups on the floor, bedclothes
scattered everywhere, perfumed with the smell
of sex, maybe, or maybe not. And if not, okay;

they've smelled of sex before and will again.
Well, probably. As Fats Waller said, "One never
knows, do one?" Then there's the kitchen with
a pizza in a blazing oven, perhaps, or a risotto
bubbling while you chop salad and blast Big Jack
Johnson on a pair of tinny speakers. Then it's off
to the dining room and Chopin while you eat

your jambalaya or cassoulet or whatever it was
you cooked, and now the living room, a fire
toppling as you sip eau de vie and toy with a cigar
and listen to Penderecki's Symphony no. 3,
the one he wrote for the war dead, the words sung
by soprano Dawn Upshaw, whose voice enters
the music so gradually that you don't realize

someone is singing until she all but cries out in joy
or terror, you're not sure which. Now you're
in the space between image and idea where Keats
spent his happiest hours, skating back and forth
between some old book in your hand
and your memories of other books, of things you did
when you were a kid or even last week and things

other people told you they did, of your mother
and father, lovers you might have
treated better and ones who might have been nicer to you,
friends you broke with even though
you can't remember a single one,
historical figures—silly ones, like Thomas Taylor
the Platonist, who invented a "perpetual lamp" fueled

by oil, salt, and phosphorus that exploded during
his demonstration of it at the Freemasons'
Tavern in 1785 which, he noted ruefully, raised
a prejudice against the device "which could never
afterwards be removed," and merry ones, like
Don Juan of Austria who, just before the battle
of Lepanto, was seized by "a fit of exuberance

beyond rational thought" and danced a galliard
on the gun-platform of the command vessel
to the music of fifes. And all the while you're thinking
of tomorrow and of the things you have to do
and the ones you want to do, and you wonder
if it'd be better to have a list to make sure you don't
forget anything or if it'd be better just to get up

and start working and in that way do the thing you
weren't expecting to do, the one that doesn't
appear on any list or even in your mind as you
were dozing, waking, dozing again, the idea
that enters you like a cry in the night—one minute
you're at a table in a tavern with your friends, it seems,
and the next, you're in the street, saying, Now what?

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