Monday, March 12, 2012

Poem: Spring again, and Bill Evans' "Peace Piece"


Can it be a year since the Japanese tsunami, and the flowering of the Arab Spring? These, as well as horrors in other places, and Bill Evans' "Peace Piece" were on my mind all morning while this small poem came together. Yesterday it was warm for Michigan, in the 60s (15-20°C); beds got raked out, revealing crocuses in bloom. After a while, listening to the songs and calls of the birds, I could hear them say things I wanted to say. Which led to the Bill Evans song, because it also gives me calm beauty when I need it. And then the poem, which only seems to offer a bit of a framework for far more that wants to be said, and you know, sometimes only improvised songs can do it. You can read this back story about Bill Evans' intoxicating song "Peace Piece," recorded in 1958, including how he did not much like performing it upon request, as it was an inspiration of the moment, not something that could be recreated. Thankfully it was recorded, so it can be listened to, with peace rising like spring again and again.

Spring again

Woodpeckers nail octaves
to limbs
in another delicate scaffold of spring

while the mourning dove
coos a bass ostinato
out of

the bottom line,
ever below
the laughing glissando

of the Northern Flicker
and the
tinkling dee-dee-dee

of the chickadee;
note by ceremonial note
their steady spirit

tinkers with my hammering heart
to build even just one season
of peace, peace.

March 2012



The Solitary Walker said...

That Bill Evans piece is divine, and gives me peace too.

As for your poem, I detect a beginning of horror ('nail', 'limbs', 'scaffold') ameliorated by 'delicate' and the hopeful (Arab) 'spring', softened by the next few verses of bird calls, and finally a kind of weary hope, the 'hammering heart' echoing the woodpecker.

I very much like 'delicate scaffold'.

George said...

Any posting that offers me a moment with Bill Evans is wonderful, transformative, and healing—and your lovely poem is the music of optimism, something which I need in the wake of the news about the American soldier slaughtering the family, including nine children, in Afghanistan. For some reason, the musical references also poignantly remind me of the revelation in "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" (just watched it two nights ago) that an ancient flute discovered in the area was spatially designed to provide the same note progressions that are found on the modern flutes. It's all mystery—the woodpeckers, the doves, the flickers, the chickadees, Bill Evans, ancient flutes, the flowering of life in Michigan and elsewhere. All that I desire is that the Mystery hold all of these expressions peacefully together.

Ruth said...

Robert, thank you for coming by and listening, reading and looking for peace, too. It's interesting reading your reflections on the poem, because it went just the opposite way. It began in my heart as nothing but hope and peace, and the scaffolding was purely about building a building, not what has appeared to you (and to me too) with a different slant, of another kind of tree, perhaps. I begin to feel Easter in it even. But whichever way it started and ended up, there is mournfulness in the hope.

Ruth said...

George, thank you for coming and bringing your peaceful desires. The news from Afghanistan was already diving fast into despair, and now this about the American soldier. Dear god.

I had forgotten about the flute in "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" but now I remember. These songs of mystery, repeated again and again, like Evans' ostinato, speak to the oneness in all of it. Spirit, transferred from heart to heart. Peace to you, my friend.

ds said...

The Bill Evans is divine, and soothing. Thank you. I went out yesterday, seeking peace, even heard a woodpecker, but was focused on birds of a different sort...The minor key is evident throughout your poem, my friend (that "other scaffold" is there, most definitely). One season of peace, day, even, the news from Afghanistan so wrenching & needless. But still, we hope, as the crocus forces itself through the soil every year, trusting there will be sunlight to nourish it.
You are much on my mind, and your words bring their own peace.

Ruth said...

ds, I've seen the peace of your birds, the swans, and I feel the divine in them too. Thank you for your thoughtfulness on my behalf here, and always, in yourself.

Maureen said...

How wonderful to hear the beautiful Bill Evans piece at the winding down of this day.

". . . even just one season. . . .": a yearning in this Lenten season carried through all the music-related imagery of your poem.

Kathleen said...

Ah, lovely! And now I am going back outside....!

Barb said...

The music of birds, the startle of vivid blooms, the rekindle of hope in our hearts - it must soon be spring.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Maureen. Surely we can sing our longing for a season of peace into reality.

Enjoy, Kathleen!

Barb, yes, and no doubt you and I will taste a bit more winter first. Thanks.

laurie said...

I met Bill on Friday the 13th, April 1979. It was the coldest spring on record in Edmonton. I had just celebrated my 22nd birthday. This may have been the luckiest day of my life.

You must believe in Spring !

Mark Kerstetter said...

Oh, the delicate taps of your poem match Bill Evans' fingers so nicely! I hadn't heard this particular piece before (even though I'm a huge jazz fan), but it's instantly a favorite - thanks so much.

Stratoz said...


did you know that the universe is held together by woodpeckers... their undulating flight sews together space and time. Thought you could use this info.

peace and hope and more Bill Evans will carry us forward with the woodpeckers

Anonymous said...

It's no wonder that Miles Davis tapped Evans to play on some of the "Kind of Blue" sessions; the modal vibe of "Peace Piece" is an obvious fit. Still, it was controversial, bringing in this dorky looking white guy to play with so many black jazz heavies. MIles though, being Miles, went with his heart. He once said that hearing Evans play piano was like standing in a waterfall of sweet notes, the sort of contrapuntal that lent his wild horn almost a form of irony. "Blue in Green," indeed. Keith Jarret owes a lot to this song, too; "Koln Concert" is so much an elaboration in album-length what was expressed in this 13-minute bit of exquisite longing ... OK, nuff on that, your poem about the awakening of spring out of a world that's seemingly lost in its winter gets at the jazz of song, words as world, the waking birds' music, their return to the land, a meditation on what somehow endures. Thanks so much for sharing this teacup of hope ... Brendan

Ruth said...

Laurie, a beautiful memory with Bill! And I wonder what he sang for you.

Mark, thank you, and I'm happy to introduce you to one of my favorite songs!

Ruth said...

Stratoz, yes, now that you mention it, I do know that. But I think I needed you to remind me. Thank you. My science teachers did not teach me poetic truths as you teach your students. Peace.

Brendan, such cool additions to the back story on Evans' song! And thanks for your reflections on spring and my poem. May you find much hope and peace in your dawn devotions in the garden.

who said...

Your poem is beautiful Ruth, a coincidental nailing of the mood when the spirit spoke in tone for Evans. When it arrives, it seems to calls all ears with a peculiar ring with a lonely Harmony. That's the way your poem sings Ruthie

Marcie said...

A lovely tribute to spring!! And the Bill Evans piece is wonderful. Thank-you!

Ruth said...

Dusty, what a lovely comment, thank you. I'm gratified that you find the same tone and spirit between our peace pieces.

Marcie, thank you so much!

Ginnie said...

As I write, I hear Bill Evans in the background. That would be such a great song for any of our own YouTubes! I love how spring is coming to you there on the farm.

Jeanie said...

I remember your posting this before. As I catch up, it is now officially spring. What beautiful images you share with us!