Thursday, May 19, 2016

Bill Cushing & Will Mayo

Tonight I'd like to post Bill Cushing's "On Modest Mussourgsky's 'Bydlo'" -- a poem inspired by one movement of Pictures at an Exhibition, a suite composed in memory of Victor Hartmann, Mussourgsky's close friend, an artist who had died at the age of thirty nine.  


                        A shape appears
                        and is gone,
                        comes into view,
                        disappears, until,
                        cresting the hill,
                        the spot
                        blotting the sun,
                        a cartload of hay,
                        takes shape.

                        the wagon,
                        oxen-drawn, a juggernaut pulled
                        by two thousand pounds,
                        rolls between fields--
                        grinding dirt,
                        crushing stones.

                        Sweating flanks
                        of coarse,
                        matted hair
                        cause slow,
                        rhythmic hammering,
                        dull thunder
                        as hooves pound earth.
                        The ground moves
                        to the sound
                        of these hardened

                        Beast and wagon pass,
                        as if solemn,
                        and then recede
                        out of sight.
                        A wake is left--
                        strong pungent odor
                        of musk
                        with the sweet sharpness
                        of the cut stalks
                        being carried
                        to the village beyond.

Here is one of Hartmann's surviving works, a sketch of a clock:

Another is a plan for a city gate in Kiev:

Bill Cushing's bio is below:

I earned an MFA in creative writing from Goddard College and currently teach English classes at both Mount San Antonio and East Los Angeles colleges while living in Glendale with my wife and our son.

This piece was inspired by my lifelong love of Mussourgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, a piece of music written in honor of an artist he knew well, which makes my poem a piece of writing inspired by a piece of music that was inspired by a painting. I have embedded an appropriate link below.

I have previously had poems published by Avocet, Brownstone Review, Mayo Review, MetaphorPenumbra, Spectrum, and West Trade Review. I was a contributor to two recently-released anthologies, Getting Old and the award-winning Stories of Music, vol 1. Also, I am scheduled to appear in volume 2 of the latter anthology.

Bill also sent me a link to a performance of Pictures at an Exhibition:

You may be familiar with the version conducted by Sir Georg Solti:

If you'd like to listen to "Baba Yar" and "Great Gate of Kiev" (see pictures above), you may want to listen to the video at this link:

I think that Thelma prefers this music.  She is looking very content.

I'd like to add some new pieces by Will Mayo.  Although this spring/summer I've been posting pieces by new-to-The Song Is... authors, I always welcome work by people who've been here before.



    Will Mayo

    "My God," Father Merton said one day. "Where am I headed?"

    There was no answer. The wind blew still. He kept walking. Ahead in the distance he could see the shifting horizons. Then no more.



    Will Mayo

    Another one of my recurring dreams is one where I find myself set in what appears every time to be an unfamiliar neighborhood. And I am a child again who longs to return to his childhood home. Walking about the street on which the houses lie I soon comprehend that it is a circular avenue of homes, there are no roads in and there are no roads out. And no one appears to be at home in any of the houses set on immaculate yards. One thing I do know: these are all well to-do homes far beyond the means of me and my simple family. I do not belong here. I am here a boy set at will among the absent strangers of a strange place and that feels wrong, so wrong.

    Sighing at my loss, I sit upon the curb of the curving street and ease myself back into dreamless sleep. Only to waken and then dream once more.



Will Mayo

Yet always in these wondering, these meanderings of mind there's a hallway to be found. One hallway leads to a desert highway along which I tried to catch a ride. Another to a mountain down whose most treacherous path I slid. Still another to a distant sea where dolphins led me home. And then another to old schoolgrounds, whether the Old College or to the Academy where fundamentalist kids taunted me with “To the Devil you go!” Onward to distant homes I called my own, whether in Maryland or Alabama or to the faraway asylum where they held me caged for a year. But always, always down a long dark hallway of desire...



    Will Mayo

    Once again, I tried to befriend a stranger who would prove to be no friend. The wild haired man led me up a winding stair, not to his apartment as he had promised, but to the rooftop of the busy bodega. With a staggering stride, he walked forward to the roof's edge across dried and crumbling tar. He pointed to the street below.

    "One day," he said. "I threw a man below. The fall broke every bone in his body."

    He paused. Then added:

    "What do you think of that?"

    "I don't know what to think," I replied matter of factly.

    "But does it scare you?" he asked.

    "No," I replied.

    He then led me away to the stairs. I made my way back down and past an angry storekeeper who didn't want me around either. Ahead, the crowd roared. I made my way forward.

    Tonight my husband and I went to hear the Todd Marcus Quartet featuring Don Byron.  We were impressed, so I am going to post some of his songs.  The first is "Blues for Tahrir (Reflections)":  The next is their version of "Bye Bye Blackbird":  I thought I'd finish with their version of Monk's "Epistrophy":  And here is Don Byron playing the music of Mickey Katz:



    1. I'll comment on one at a time. Really enjoyed the music that I know so therefore can hear--is that confusing? The poem is a great tribute to this composer you love--it is a powerful piece of music. I played it many years ago. Thanks for posting the poem and the music of Mussourgsky. Thank you Bill Cushing.

      1. Thanks so much for the kind word, Jo, and I am glad you enjoyed my own "variation on a theme," as it were. Pictures, along with Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite, have been among my favorite pieces since childhood (HT to dad on that one), with Fritz Reiner's CSO Pictures my preferred version (think it was a 1960 recording).

    2. Thanks, Jo, for the kind words, and I am gratified you enjoyed my "variation on a theme." I began listening to this (along with Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite) at a very young age (given how lame the pop music was back then), and my favorite has always been Fritz Reiner's with the Chicago (I think it's a 1960 recording).

    3. You're welcome. Keep writing. Peer Gynt is also a favorite that I introduced to my third graders--the first suite, morning was playing when they walked in. A good way to start the day.

    4. Hi Will,
      I traveled with you,and sometimes too find in dreams those long hall ways, etc. It seemed sad in the vignette called lost to not be able to find your childhood home. It's good you write all this down. Intriguing. Thanks.