National Poetry Month, day 2: Peter Halstead

A poem about yesterday’s birthday composer:

“Rachmaninoff” by Peter Halstead

On top of fluted spines
Between the massing pools
Of dark chromatic lines

And using blood for fuel
Follow all the signs
And signatures

Read the fine print
On the flapping label
In the search for love

So the incidentals
Of the dim rule
On the page above

Take the clouded hint
Or later on you’ll
Tend to bluff

In the no man’s land
Of the intellectual
Handcuffed to chance

And lost in jewels:
A dream of hell
With inhuman hands.

Source. Peter Halstead is a poet, pianist, and photographer who with his wife Cathy founded the Tippet Rise Art Center in Montana.

I love the hints of musical terminology in this poem, and I assume the “inhuman hands” of the last line belong to Rachmaninoff himself, who had famously enormous hands, which enabled him to span gigantic chords at the keyboard (and which led him to unapologetically write gigantic chords in his own piano music). When he was on his deathbed, Rachmaninoff is reported to have bid farewell to his hands.

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