Hearing, Listening, and The Poetry of Simon and Garfunkel

 

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The well-timed pause in her story. The cough and the yawn. The lyrics to a Simon and Garfunkel song. A sentence of honest revelation expressing words I would rather not hear. They dig into me, and I ache with their sting of truth. Or a version of it.

Stretch me. Open me. Give me all you have to give, world. I am a receiver. A receptacle of grace and grit.

Because I am learning to listen, I now hear the fire, the burn, the crackle of the ash, the fragrant rising up, the sound of the unsavory too.  I am stilled by the quiet and stirred by the poetry. Every sound in the school of stop and hear the world comes to me and I am a pre-schooler once again.

Slowing down, being present and dedicating all of the senses to a moment opens the world up— to wonder, discovery, to what was once unknown. If I am here I want to be all here. There, all there. But I encounter the both and the and of the present. I compromise and meet it all. This is the risk of diving in. This is what I am learning. Both and. To seek beauty is to meet pain. To be open to delight and extraordinary intricacies of the micro-world is to be open to both comfort and joy and hurt and pain.

Bring me all the things I missed on those days when I was too tired, uninterested, too busy, and preoccupied with the unimportant things of life. Dump them at my feet and watch me weep. Noticing now is my redemptive act. It is compounding my joy. For I can’t go back, but I can move forward looking and listening and living well in the moments I have. As a note taker and as one on a journey to discover the joy of noticing, I must listen with the eyes of my heart. I must hear with a deep sense of listening. The pitch is high. The echoes and reverberations bring elation and chords of depression, but grace out yells the grit.

On Sunday I drove down Highway 26, traveling from the Upstate to the Low-country. This is a drive I know well. I could drive it blindfolded but I wouldn’t recommend it.  As I was channel surfing, I stumbled on a fantastic radio show which was featuring music from The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, and other classics. The featured music was primarily old demo versions of popular songs, something other than the easily recognizable recorded hit.

It had been years since I had heard the song “A Hazy Shade of Winter.” Music, like nothing else, has a way of stirring memories. That song you danced to at a high school dance, or didn’t because no one asked —that song you sang to alone in your bedroom with a hairbrush mike—they resurrect memories that both remind, awake, and make us want to forget.

After nearly 50 years from the time it was first released,  I heard the song anew in all its simplicity and complexity. It is a poem. It was a gift. Here are the words:

A Hazy Shade of Winter

Time, time time, see what’s become of me
While I looked around for my possibilities

I was so hard to please
Don’t look around
The leaves are brown
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter

Hear the Salvation Army band
Down by the riverside’s, there’s bound to be
a better ride
Than what you’ve got planned

Carry your cup in your hand
And look around
Leaves are brown, now
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter

Hand on to your hopes, my friend
That’s an easy thing to say
But if your hopes should pass away
Simply pretend that you can build them again
Look around
The grass is high
The fields are ripe
It’s the springtime of my life

Seasons change with the scenery
Weaving time in a tapestry
Won’t you stop and remember me
At any convient time?
Funny how my memory skips while looking
over manuscripts
Of unpublished rhyme
Drinking my vodka ad lime
I look around
Leaves are brown, now
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter
Look around
Leaves are brown
There’s a patch of snow on the ground
Look around
Leaves are brown
There’s a patch of snow on the ground
Look around
Leaves are brown
There’s a patch of snow on the ground

(written by Paul Simon)

And so I am listening. Because the world is full of beautiful lines of rhyme and wonderful expressions of what is heard, seen, felt, and lived. And sometimes it all falls on deaf ears.

And sometimes it doesn’t.

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Not Beethoven’s Ode To Joy

 

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Not Beethoven’s Ode To Joy

Nestled away from the throngs of discourse
(Still in earshot, every one )

Off shore
Where the peacemakers still
Come and go
Singing their muffled songs
Blended  harmony
Paul’s Epistle, the First One
And Ludwig’s musical composition
In the key of love

Ravenous scavengers of joy
Refuse to give up
Hungry for crumbs of hope
Cast wide their wholly nets

Old as dirt, new as momma’s milk
Music heals the wounded heart
Notes or not
Flat or sharp

Upon the raging sea

Twenty Sixteen is split right in two
Broken in halves and thirds and fifths
Thirsty for joy, parched for peace
We need more
Odes to joy

It is hard to beat the masters
Paul and Ludwig raise the bar
High and holy

But for the old salts
With graying hair, weary bones
And raspy throats
Worn out rope
Tethered to what’s left

Who never tire of amazing grace
Refuse to abandon a sinking ship
Or give up weary attempts
At writing their own

Ode to joy
Or at least
A hat tip to Ludwig

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Quiescence

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Quiescence

The Earth plays her scales in a C minor chord
First string grey demands a solo
Cancels out Earth’s musical noise
Grey, the sound of dormancy
White noise
Dampens each note
Unuttered, silence
Muffled in the shadows of the shortened days
Cut off at the knees, the sun is tired
And so am I
Like a puppet show, the light plays in the snow
The tree limbs sign the words
So you and I
Mute and deaf to the language of the Winter quiet
May hear and see and know
Muted though they seem
The Earth still sings
A winsome winter song
A breaking bough, the percussion
The weight of white
Her breaking point
How beautiful the silence sounds
As the nothingness takes a bow