Three Portraits for Poet and Piano

So I began rehearsals yesterday of the last two parts of Three Portraits for Poet and Piano. The first piece is Minotaur which is on the Clameur album. The second two have been finished this week and are new-born. I sat with Glen Capra yesterday going through them. Excellent music.

The second piece is called Ophelia, and has some beautiful resonant sinking chords. The final piece, Kafka is essentially comedic and ends with the piano lid being slammed. They will have their world premiere this Saturday. Here are the three poems they are based on.


Forehead gored by migraine;
pain has sharpened my senses.
I hear mosquitoes in the garden
there are clouds of them conspiring,
one for every promise.

You promised me this garden
somewhere private; somewhere lovely,
now it’s empty bar some black dog
whose hairs I find everywhere.
and still I sense it panting
among the sculptures, fin de siècle,
made by someone very clever.

Rose-choked, the garden walls break
over the cracked slabs. I tread petals
I make the divine slime of rose heads
the ecru of ex-white petal falls.

Or I listen to the radio
snorting with uncontrollable laughter
or I read my leisurely books
near the ornamental fishpond
the copper-coloured fishpond.

The one I can never look in.


You write your name on water
And then you sink
A wet halo shrinks
Around your face
And you sink
Lips last.

Why didn’t you float like the others?
Why didn’t you drift downstream with a glut
of Pre-Raphaelite flowers?

I’m terrified that you’ve stopped breathing
or that you gulp the dim, death-gladdening murk
Where everything’s refracted
Bending the sticks and searching arms.

For you are not where you seem to be
And your ears are full of sand
And there’s a stone in your soul so big
I’m not sure if you want me
To lift you up or hold you under.


I fell asleep—as normal—then kerpow!
Those puff-cheeked cherubs of wind and fate
changed me to a cockroach again.

I discover everything about me’s wrong:
the carapace, nauseating wings,
spitty, finger-faced mandibles, while
my unspeakable eyes compound it all.

Choking, I dodge her frantic death sprays,
the savage clubbing of her broom
to skitter across the beer-sticky floor.

All I asked of fate was a fair wind,
a simple swoosh of a butterfly’s wing
would have sufficed. Instead
dear God! it’s come to this: crunch time.