Peter Hughes: Berlioz (Part 8 of 8)

 







1


I can’t stop shaking
the laudanum makes me
thick & insensitive
& doesn’t even take away the pain
she brought Shakespeare to Paris
Juliet    Ophelia   Desdemona
she opened up another world
in the mind of France
I walk through
the childhood of Christ
where I write my own words
& place them with my own notes
& none of it is mine











2


my first love
came back to haunt me
Estelle of the vine & hair
the white house on the hill
the little pink boots
there were times when I woke up
in the middle of the night
with a tune in my head
that pleaded to be kept
written down & teased out into life
I turned over & gritted my teeth
with tears mourning the ending











3


I will not speak about how
my love of Shakespeare was grafted on
my longer-standing love of Virgil
the most glorious episodes
of the Aeneid reawoken as a five-act
drama set to my mind’s best music
I can’t do more than cough it up
& spit it in a pot
all I have left
on a planet past its sell-by date
is my son at the other end of the world
sailing towards some blade or grapeshot
carrying me with him from the
wreck of Paris & the wreck of life











4


Estelle has allowed me to
write from time to time
I have even visited
when my health permits
she knows that I am
twelve years old & she knows
better than I
that she is nearly seventy
I think of her every hour
I am always writing
the next letter
she knows better than I
that we will hardly ever meet again











5


my first & second wives
have both been dug up
& translated to a new edition
a grander monument
I saw everything
under the sun
& become smaller daily
my skull has shrunk
around my eyes
my son died
in Havana
of yellow fever
he was thirty-two
it was a day in June
it was just a day
& then there was another











6


I burnt the documents
cuttings   letters
Royal commendations
attached to a past life
I visited Estelle
for the last time
in September
when winter came
I swallowed my future
for fuel & flared into
a final one-way flight
I took my soul to Russia
conducting concerts
in Moscow & St. Petersburg
Gluck Beethoven
Beethoven Beethoven
Beethoven Berlioz
running on empty











7


& then ignominious farewells
to the Mediterranean
I moved through my own estuaries
stumbling on the rocks
clattering face-first into stone
mistaking every bank & shoal
I heard noises in the air
malicious parodies of
outstanding lyrics
driven out of my head
the hills above Nice
felt like blasted heath
each of my vines
had died inside











8


Estelle is still alive
I want to erase time
walk with her up the coast path
to the hill overlooking the sea
there will be a white house
there will be vines & a flute
then orange groves
she will be eighteen
wearing little pink boots
I will be composing like a Trojan
& the rehearsals
at the finest opera house
in the world
are going well
I repeat myself often
just as the sea repeats itself
with every wave











9


my thoughts repeat themselves
the same thought passes through me
like a wave too early in spring
when the chill is not refreshing
but aches like a sick tooth or ear
I sent Estelle the words
I had written for The Trojans
& I asked her to read the page
marked with some dead leaves
collected from the garden
of the white house
where she lived
when we were young











 

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