16 Jul

Poetry: 6 études for Chopin

Stephanie Barbé Hammer

whatever you want to say about Chopin —
he was gay or he wasn’t or he just didn’t
do sex because he was too frail —
he made his best work at George Sand’s house;
he sat at the piano at her place in Nohant
and the notes fell out of him, they streamed
down the staircase
as painters and prostitutes drank their tea.

I can hear the music, Delacroix said. I can hear
him practicing. D. painted in the library while
in another room George Sand was writing
those terrible potboilers to keep the house paid for and the
food coming in – she was the guy in this gang, in
case you didn’t know that, the person making the money
and sweating the cash flow —
and there was the 19th century unspooling all around them with
its uprising disappointments its flags and
flaneurs — so

when you think of love and when you think of revolution
relaxing romanticism sex and death
you have to think about his notes spilling out through her salon doors
leaking down through the roof and windows — impossible

for example, the Polonaise in A flat major – the “heroic” —
Chopin wrote it in Nohant
how ridiculously hard it is
to play
yet he threw it together like it was nothing, performing it
just for friends –
(he hated big audiences [he was shy]).

there he is upstairs: that queer (?) going-to-die-young genius
doing things with the piano that no one has ever even thought to do –
so incredible that people hear the work online now and do wild
runs up and down the
scales of their emotions, texting
I love it what is it, who’s chopin and what’s a polonaise? an instrument or a song or what? it makes me do my homework. it makes me have an orgasm, I listen to it over and over again – it makes me so happy –
all coming from that house in Nohant.

That’s when you realize that
genius is about the people who take care of you:
you can make anything
tackle anything –
the hardest art is a pleasure if you’re upstairs from your friends and lovers
knowing they are listening
but not too hard, not expecting, making their own
while some beloved person – just as creative —
sits at a desk churns out words
pays the bills.

10461470_10152478785294720_6406735845484478127_nStephanie Barbé Hammer has published fiction in The Bellevue Literary Review, Pearl, and Hayden’s Ferry Review. A 4-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize, she also writes poetry; her 2014 collection, How Formal? is available from Spout Hill Press.



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