Bill Zavatsky For Marc Copland

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To Old Friends

Here’s to the hand, the key,
the strings, the breath,
here’s to the mouth, the air
that shudders, shimmers,
struck by the notes we send
each other, like this one,
all old friends.
                        Here’s to
the heart caught
between notes, or curled
in a note asleep, riding a groove
with no thought of wanting
to leap off—though there’s
a chance that one of these
old friends will lift you up
and out, to here: outside
inside, where we’ll listen
to the sounds we make as
they come at us like air
that something’s been
done to—improved air,
air purified—air gone through
the song, through song
the heart of breath—that’s
what it is!
                        So here’s to song
that changes everything
with a hand, a mouth, a
breath. Here’s to a key
that opens every lock
of every prison we ever
thought we sat in—every
fate to which we thought
we were doomed. Here’s
to inside going outside.
That’s what friends are for

How Do I Know What the Music Will Say?

How do I know
what the music
will say to me
this time?—

it is the lonely woman:

         When a lonely woman calls you,
         you have no choice but to say
        all the words you’ve gathered up
        for some other day—
         no matter
                                         tells you
        you can’t make her go away . . .

Then something about the spine—
how it fits together, used to
fit together, will fit together again—
all the white pieces, all the black

held together by a band
of gold. Why do I expect
it to say anything, this ghost
ship drawn out of lines
or the lines of fingerprints . . .

left all over both pianos
like one more spider web sail
woven by music, onto whose
deck we willingly walk,
trapped again by what
enters our ear. . . .

Listen as the instrument takes
breaths, stops, thinks over
what’s just been done to it,
what it’s just thought in the way
of musical ideas: “load every rift
with ore,” Keats said, to which
I gladly lend my ear, just as

I offer my ear to you and the night
and the music! Ravish it!
Why, you’d think these pianos
had been listening to
Lennie Tristano’s!—pure
skyscraper ascent, finger
by finger, but speeded up

into an elegy that slows down
to register the search for gold
again, this time in the ruins
of what’s left when the needle
comes out: so much beauty,
and there could have been much
more. Monk enters to make
a little tip of his hat before
disappearing in a flash of
sixteenth notes. He knew

how to listen to each other,
as these poets do, listening
to each other in the mirror
of rhythm, pianos under water,
submarine pianos, rolling, rolling
in circles like that band of gold,

some dim backwards bell tolling
its way out of town, or—uptown!
rolling in circles on the floor
of the A train as it plunges towards
Sugar Hill in Harlem, one part
Monk, three parts Errol Garner
(tipsy). . . .

                        So “Blue in Green.”
So Bill, who said to me, “Miles
gave me the first two chords,
then said, ‘What would you do
with that?’—and I went home
and wrote it.”

                                First they do
a lot to stay out of each other’s
way. Then one of them’s
pushing against the other’s
fingertips, pushing him under
the black water of the piano’s
finish, yet still he talks
from beneath the water
in low cascades of rumbles,
dark notes that flood us
with blue and green, give us

a mask to swing in, to hide behind.
“I always write with a mask
upon my face,” wrote Valery Larbaud.
And so these poet-dancers go into
their rumba, their tango, their
noli me tangere lo(w) tengo.

We should know how lucky we are
to have been summoned by the lonely woman,
how sweet to have been wound in her web


You could be air; are.
You could not have to be
anything, unless identity
presented itself to you as voices,
voicings, wind.

                                Here is the field
in which you will stop, turn,
and make everything come around

                        We aspire
to touch the air as you do,
drawing out its sounds as it lies
around us, waiting, crouched,

trembling for this precision,
like the hand that touches a cheek,
or standing tall as trees
that do or do not hear the sound
of wind as it pours through them.

right through to the sounds
the air makes when it thinks
of itself only as air.

the shadow-version of yourself,
negative air that no breath
can take. Accept the lighted
image of yourself that is all air,
all voice. We listen, we
look for it.

We do through you.

To Old Friends, written to accompany the CD Marc Copland and... (Hat Hut Records, 2003)

How Do I Know What the Music Will Say?, written to accompany the CD No Choice by Marc Copland and Bill Carrothers (Minium, 2006)

Voices, written to accompany the CD by the Marc Copland Trio, Voices (Pirouet, 2007)

This material is © Bill Zavatsky

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