Old Composer

by Carl Dennis

He still gives his mornings to writing music,
Only now, as he sits at his desk by the piano
At work on a quintet for strings and oboe,
The musicians he’d choose to perform it
No longer dwell among the living.
Now he’ll have to settle for five unknowns
Who, considering how seldom his pieces
Are being performed these days, may still be children,
Unaware of the years of practice ahead of them
Before they’re ready to play his music,
Whether they play for many in concert
Or just for themselves.  Of course, if he thought the piece
Would never rise from the page even once
To fill a room, he’d finish it for the satisfaction
Of giving form to feelings that otherwise would vanish.
But without the hope of an audience, the piece
Might acquire the overtones of an elegy,
Whereas he’s doing his best to make it joyful,
To dwell not on the happenstance of obscurity
But on the gifts that have come his way unasked.
And now that he’s written the measures he’d hoped
To write this morning, it’s time for his usual walk
Through the park and his usual stop at the grocery.
Today the shoppers will seem less hurried to him
Than they seem on days when his morning work
Has been disappointing.  They’ll be taking their time
As they look for healthy items that might please their children,
Including the child who rises early to practice
The oboe on loan from her middle school.
What a pleasure it is for the old composer
To picture her in her room in the attic
Lost in the music while trying to play
More softly than she does in the evening
So the sleep of the family is not disturbed.