The Day Igor Stravinsky Got Busted
There was his mugshot,
front page of The Globe,
just below the fold,
his long, elegant head
in profile two columns wide,
every tiny dot oozing guilt.
A Jewish immigrant with a flair
for the whimsical is going to
be doing some hard time.
Reharmonizing a nation’s anthem
is okay, just don’t do it in Boston;
a diminished-seventh chord
instead of a major sixth?
They got laws there. Tough laws.
Bombs bursting in air?
There’s only one way
they do that in Beantown.
But there’s no jail that can hold you.
You’re gonna bust out, take it on the lam.
You’ve got Russian friends at Juilliard
who’ll hide you in the attic, slip food
and manuscript paper under the door,
while you pull your biggest caper of all–
a minor-key retrograde setting
of Hail To The Chief.
I can just hear that demonic snicker
as you imagine the look on Roosevelt’s face
the next time he steps off the train.
And before the brilliance of your youth
blurs between lines and spaces,
a frail, final act of defiance:
O Say Can You See for solo guitar
chock full of glissandi and appoggiatura;
playable by only the most possessed
of gifted left hands;
played loud, yeah, really loud–
triple forte, hyper fortissimo!
Faster and faster you write,
the page turns black,
the damp ink shining in the candlelight
of your windowless garret.
Forget Firebird, Le Sacre—
this is your masterpiece,
worthy to be heard by only
the most discerning of patriots,
each erect, hand over heart,
cheering wildly after every
exploding power chord
of a twilight’s last gleaming;
a home of the brave,
a land of the free.
And the authorities?
Damn them all to hell!
You slide back your beret,
lean away from the keyboard,
and imagine how poetic it would be
if only that left hand which blurred
across the neck of a glistening Stratocaster
could be that of a young Negro boy.
That would show them.
That would show them all.