walking in beauty – January 11, 2015 (for Terry)

by richibi

Paul Gauguin - "The Cellist (Portrait of Upaupa Scheklud)"

The Cellist (Portrait of Upaupa Scheklud) (1894)

Paul Gauguin


what are you reading, Terry asked,
I’d been riffling through the pages
of a book I’d just finished, trying to
find a particular bit I wanted for
firm ground later in conversations

a man in Sarajevo during the siege,
July 5, 1992 to February 29, 1996,
the bit I’d been looking for, had seen
neighbours, 22 of them, killed when
a mortar from the surrounding hills
had, as they waited in line for a much
depleted market, a consequence of
the siege, obliterated them, arms,
feet everywhere, as well as the

the man, a cellist with a Sarajevo
symphony, probably its finest, had
resolved, in honour of the victims,
to come out to play each day, at
the very time, in the very place of
the atrocity, for 22 days, one for
each of the victims, despite being
each time in the very eye of a
sniper’s bullet, Albinoni’s haunting
, listen

he made it out eventually to Ireland,
it is later indicated

The Cellist of Sarajevo“, I replied,
I’m taking it back to the library, I
needed to check some dates, I
write, I want to talk about it

I’ve been talking about walking in
beauty, I said, incorporating it into
one’s life, this man overcame his
fear of death so profoundly as to
deliver a very dirge, an act of
prodigious, even transcendental
meditation, to sit and play midst
the rubble and ashes of his friends
this tribute, how sound must’ve
been his conviction

walking in beauty, I said, it’s a
Navajo prayer

Wordsworth has a poem like that he
said, and recited it word for word

“She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!”, he said

I was flabbergasted, I had only my
few lines of Shakespeare to compare

I’m Richard, I said

Terry, he retorted

I can’t talk now, I’m off, if you can
believe it, to read Shakespeare with
a friend, we’ll meet again, you’re easy
to spot, you’ve got no shoes, you’re
barefoot, my mom has talked about
you, you always say hello, she says,
she thinks you’re a nice man

Terry had his sandals in his hand,
he stood under his umbrella, I
hadn’t opened mine, he was trying
to shield me also from, for me, the
merely mist, not rain, despite a
rod stretched unhooked from his
otherwise sufficient cover from
the wet

can you remember my e-mail, he
offered, it’s easy

I wrote it on the battered flyleaf
of my Shakespeare

that’s a relic, he said

my International Collector’s Library,
I answered, that’s where I got my
literature when I was a boy, in my
little town of Timmins, an outpost,
I’d get a classic every month, each
bound distinctively, their gimmick

you could get money for that, he

not, like this, I said, it’s in tatters

I’ll tell my mom I talked to you, I said,
she’ll be delighted

Tony, right

Terry, he corrected

Richard, I said


later he thought I’d been Michael


psst: it turns out the poem is by Byron,
not Wordsworth, not surprising,from
this distance all the Romantic poets
sound alike, except for, of course,
the Brownings, an inconsequential