Real Notes

"The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved."

“They’re real notes. Swear.”
This from the girl with the blue clarinet.
Real blue. Swear.

Her notes are blue.
No metaphor. Swear.
What sound it is cannot be written out and out
and out as real notes, no more than whale song—
the real and ecstatic whale,
not the human’s wistful echo of her many ghosts.

Or a wolf in the night, keening its own extinction.
The soul-searching owl—
the soul tearing rapacious owl.
A lone osprey’s hard starving grief having missed the perch.
A death cry over dark water. Real notes: silent.
The victory-smug burble of diving fish.

All notes. Swear.
The banshee-laugh of a siren before a dread of dawn.
A tourist’s drug-sweetened bliss shredded into madness.
The note of nightmare howl from the shredded mind
broils on the dream-flash rack in the orchestra
pit of refining flames—real notes—hot licks.

The final gurgle of the man fixed flat on the pavement,
his neck still and forever ground under his killer’s knee.
Loud sighs, muffled outrage from intimidated bystanders.
Real notes, modulated. Storm-stoked panic.
Primordial wail from the bereaved, isolated beyond consolation.
The judge’s artistic, blind deliverance: a sentence of Original Guilt.

Nearly drained, in desperate modulation
the lover of death lowers the volume of notes.
Real notes.
The exhausted mother pleading so so so far
suspended beyond the demeaning notes of language.

Real notes! Oh Swear!—
The squall-notes of another summer aborning in surge—
death-march notes a dirge to strangling new servility.

Behind me, back down the two-rut track and into the woods
echoes the flute-song of a thrush, diminuendo.
Real notes. Swear. Only: Once—upon a time.


Richard Fenton Sederstrom was raised and lives in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and the North Woods of Minnesota. Sederstrom is the author of seven books of poetry, his newest book, Icarus Rising, Misadventures in Ascension, published by Jackpine Writers' Bloc, was released last winter. Read other articles by Richard Fenton.