018.1: Andy Nicholson:: Lenya to Weill, 1928 & Didymus 018

Poetic song has been mothballed, shelved, axed. At least, that’s what most of us thought. In the contemporary climate of ironic distance and deconstructive hesitation, I wondered if an earnest cry would ever find itself into a poem again. Andy Nicholson’s poetry responds directly to this inquiry with an adamant “yes”. Against the grain of much innovate writing, Nicholson’s work tackles powerful emotions by relying on familiar images. The first poem presented here, “Lenya to Weill, 1928”, offers us a sunrise, bass notes, birds. Nothing out of the ordinary. By the time we reach the poem’s conclusion, however, these familiar experiences become charged with a second, latent energy; suddenly, the emotions in the poem (let’s say a frozen yogurt swirl of excitement and longing) are felt rather than staged. We have joined the chorus.

Nicholson’s poetry reminds us that song is communal. His lengthier meditation, “Didymus”, explores what it means to inhabit a body in a physical world. Like any song, this poem relies on breath as a present but transcendent medium. Nicholson implores us to follow the implications of what we speak. Inhabiting a physical and historical world, poetic speech enables a crossing of temporal and physical boundaries, a connection to the ghosts of ourselves and others. No wonder, then, that the speaker looks upon a dearly remembered friend and begs him to sing. Ryan Winet

Lenya to Weill, 1928


I first sang for you,
tucked in a long sunrise that rose
to where the midday sun was waiting.
The bass notes’ low tide still wiggles deep
in my smaller toes, a grasp—
that first grasp still holds.

If you cast me back inside, cast me
back inside. The future is a new idea,
a truth arriving unannounced. Your fame
will go through my voice, but why
not sing a duet to
the morning’s birds, perched and ready?

*

Didymus

1

A twin
to me, beyond the catch
of my eye. I know a little bit
about my ghost and me.
We see the same thing look back
from hills to my eye.
We never tell the truth of it
but try and find imagination where
the dream slides further.

Say chariot and it races.
Say a cherry and feel sweet and red and tonguey.
The tongue is in, is here, and in
here is the world. My ghost
puts a hand on my face, doubling
my touch: I too am here.

2

Hills and furrows weave the muscles’
warp and weft.

Ley lines entwine me, draw me,
open and hold a hand, a face.

The red cloth speaks inside its fissure,
opens and holds another body.

The red cloth folds and unfolds multitudes:
it is both crowd and shore.

3

We came to the shore and saw a boat approaching. It held a dozen passengers who stood while the boat sped over the water. The hull barely touched the water’s surface, the keel cutting through. The water briefly parted, then filled the cut smooth.
The ship reached the shore, and when the passengers unloaded onto the sand, the boat turned and soon passed into the darkness. The passengers approached us, talking and believing we knew something about this place, but we too were beginning.
One knew me and called me by name. He was a friend I had last seen years ago, a dear friend who stood in my memory and now stood here in the sand before me. I knew he had a beautiful voice and asked him to sing.