“Penderecki’s Soul” by Phyllis M. Teplitz

Phyllis M. Teplitz


While I write,
I play Shearing
on Dave’s stereo.

God, I remember
those last few weeks,
him plugged into this,
his life support.
How he main-lined Penderecki.
I imagine his C/T scan showing
these tuneless passages
as strange hieroglyphs,

A lab tech would spot it
as abstract art,
sell pirated copies. The Guggenheim
would showcase
this unsigned masterpiece,
“Penderecki’s Soul.”

Cryptologists, musicologists, oncologists
who came to witness the aberration
might have thrown up their hands.

In the O.R. no way they could
carve out the cacaphony.
If speakers were attached,
he would broadcast
the collage of eerie sounds
through the hospital. Terrified patients
would stuff cotton in their ears.

I suppose he really heard music
in those CDs—
some orchestral battle.
The clash of percussionist armies
against yearning cellos and violin angst.
Or maybe just any barrage of loud noise
would fill the vacuum: his entourage
of students, gone. Friends, gone.
His doctors and me, all he had left.

Tympani battalions only masked
his real war. No succession
of specialists could quell
the insurrections.

Any more than I could.
A pair of hands.
An empty form.

from Rattle #23, Summer 2005


Phyllis M. Teplitz: “When my husband died ten years ago, I attended a creative writing class. It was something to do. Tom Centolella, who taught the class, ignited my passion for poetry. Now, I can’t not write. It’s the way I escape my boundaries. It’s how I know who I am.”

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