The Crying Echoes

gunshots
break great ragged holes
in the foggy dew,
prayers and protests rise from precious snow,
the blood of men
mingling with the blood of the land,
echoes in their descendants
lament lost cities –
cry, the beloved country,
for what might have been
cannot now be
instead, this.


 

Acknowledgement:  The phrase ‘cry, the beloved country’ is taken with gratitude from the 1948 novel of the same title by Alan Paton.  It is a favorite book of mine.

I would also like to include a link to the song referenced in line three.  The song and its historical context are the primary inspiration for this poem.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39ePrOYFfUQ


© Samuel Birrer and Serendipity, 2017.

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Evanescence

Sometimes
What is most beautiful
Is what you cannot quite make out

Occasionally
The purest of harmonies
Lives just on the fringe of silence

What joy can be found
With sorrow close by its side
These two hold hands

The answer is often found
Before the question is asked
We ask it anyway

What do such things mean?
Is this what it is
To have a human heart?


 

© Samuel Birrer and Serendipity, 2017.

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As Through Fire

destroying flames
in a reddish sky
warnings of a failing future
throes of a dying past

purging flames
in the corridors of the mind
letting old thoughts
reduce to welcome nothingness

leaping flames
consuming the heart
eating away but
reaching to touch the stars

licking flames
threatening safety
mesmerizing the gaze
like a game

searing flames
burning away
long-held personhood
giving way to a soul

dancing flames
forging something new
maybe good
from misshapen wreckage of the old


© Samuel Birrer and Serendipity, 2017.

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Sonder

A hundred raindrops
falling on the just and the unjust

A hundred fingers
tapping thoughtfully at window panes

A hundred miles
walked to a holy place

A hundred voices
speaking softly from the heart

A hundred kisses
blossoming briefly, never forgotten

A hundred words
conversing quietly to save a life

A hundred strokes
painted lovingly on expectant canvas

A hundred moments
passing as awareness finds them

A hundred thoughts
forming, falling, finally disappearing

A hundred notes
played in patterns soft, sweet and sad

A hundred souls
side by side, touching, joining and parting

A hundred somethings more
awaited by tomorrow

 


© Samuel Birrer and Serendipity, 2017.

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Thoughts on a Blackboard

faded memories
particles clinging for a time
forming meaning
in words and shapes
bullet points or diagrams

a beautiful mess
barely readable – yet
maybe
worth the understanding

a landscape left
or a portrait
fit for the Louvre or the Met
lingering till next class
gentle outlines remaining
for whoever sees

rude comments forgotten
replaced with encouragement
in exclamation marks
and simple smiling faces

treasures left
by pseudonyms
anonyms
and the odd proud author

quotations coming
from the venerable pens
of Einstein, Napoléon, Shakespeare
attributed and misattributed
by some modern wit

time
in quarter-hour blocks
marked off by tired-eyed proctors
for students just as dazed

a few hours break
professor J. using the projector
and “MATH 110 WILL MEET IN 315”

brilliant dusty hands transcribe
fallacies unnoticed
and truths unrecognized

thoughts scribbled by many hands
corrected
debated
and erased
despite the desperate DNE
scrawled in a corner

and all this
just scattered memories
retained in fractions by
an unspecial handful of humans


© Samuel Birrer and Serendipity, 2017.

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Die Geheimnisse der Zukunft

Werd’ ich rein wie Edelstein,
Einmal in der Zukunft sein?

Oder frei wie Falken fliegen,
Über dunkle Wolken siegen?

Wozu werd’ ich endlich werden,
Wie lang stehe ich noch auf Erden?

Werd’ ich meine Teufel umbringen,
Bevor sie selbst auf mich eindringen?

Im Spiegel scheint die Augen aschig,
Und die Haut ist blass und graulich.

Wie weiß man ob ‘ne Seele sitzt,
Versteckt im Herz, aus Elfenbein geschnitzt..?

 

 


The Secrets of the Future (personal translation)

Will I be pure as a gemstone,
Some time in the future?

Or fly, free like the falcons,
Win victory over dark clouds?

What will I finally become,
How long will I stand on this Earth?

Will I slay my demons,
Before they close in around me?

In the mirror, my face looks ashen,
And my skin is pale and greyish.

How do you know if a soul sits,
Hidden in the heart, carven of ivory..?

 


© Samuel Birrer and Serendipity, 2017.

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Walking

I could stand still
if I knew where I was headed,
but the light is gone long since;
I have lost my destination (or destiny)
in the fog.

To walk is stumbling steps,
starting, stopping, striking stones
before my faltering feet –

But not to walk – to wait,
that’s worse,
an unstealthy insecurity,
fear of susceptibility
to unknown presences of the dark.

My moving feet beat back the terror from my heart
but worlds still weigh wearily. . .

Hoof-beats from behind
overtake and pass me by.
I yearn for such a swift steed to carry me
off
to something beyond now.

But beneath the burning wish
I know it would be no escape:
Escape to where, and what?

What is out there
in the dark or in the dawn
for me. . .


© Samuel Birrer and Serendipity, 2017.

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What I Might Have Done

What I Might Have Done
Is a poison of uncertainty
seeping through my mind.
What if, what if…
Would I be happier,
Would I be more alive?

Would that man
Have lived a while longer
Had I been there
By his side that night
Would he have a job,
A family,
A home instead of a tomb?

Would I have gone crazy
Or would I have gone sane
If once upon a time
I had done this – not that.

Am I living the wrong life right now,
Or the right one?
Is there a difference?
Am I myself,
Or did my self diverge from me
A long while back
In a yellow wood…

The poison penetrates deeply sometimes
But eventually
I awaken
To the universe in which I live
Whether I will or no.

And feeling the matrix
Into which I was born
And to which I belong –
I know that What I Might Have Done
Is a poison,
And what I am choosing to do right now
Is life.
And that is the way it ought to be.


© Samuel Birrer and Serendipity, 2016.

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IF ONLY

The greatest thought
In the universe
Flashed once in a lonely mind
That never knew its worth.
The lips that might have spoken it
Were silent.
For the lonely mind
Had convinced itself
That nothing it thought was important
That no one would want to hear.

The greatest thought
In the universe
Once formed, was soon forgot;
But its light continued on
Beyond the lonely mind
And loud, uncaring world.

In all its significant insignificance,
It faced the court of the numberless stars
In their eternal session.
And when the gavel finally clacked,
On the surface of space and time,
A lonely scientist
Working too late on a Friday night
Discovered a fiery faraway sun
That was never seen before.

No one ever understood
– not even that scientist -Why she called that star
By the strange little name
“IF ONLY”


© Samuel Birrer and Serendipity, 2016.

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Kalevala (4): Musical Influence and Jean Sibelius

The Kalevala was recognized as a work of enormous cultural importance in Finland when it was first published, but its influence spread far beyond the pages of the book itself, and not only in literary spheres.  Many lovers of music know the name of Jean Sibelius, a prominent romantic composer, and perhaps the best known name in Finnish music.  His “Finlandia” – which introduced a popular hymn melody – and “Karelia Suite” are some of his most famous works, but many of Sibelius’ compositions found their inspiration in the Kalevala.


Robert Kajanus, a composer writing slightly before Sibelius’ time, also wrote music based on themes from the Kalevala, notably the symphonic poem Aino.   He also wrote Kullervo’s Funeral March, on a theme which was later taken up by the younger Sibelius.  Kajanus, though brilliant and renowned, was never as prolific or well-known as his successor.

Kajanus’ music may have been instrumental in the Sibelius’ decision to use the Finnish national epic for inspiration in his own pieces.  His Lemminkäinen Suite derives its name from the cycle of poems about the impetuous hero Ahti (also named Lemminkäinen).  Another, called Tapiola, is takes its name from a forest spirit in Finnish mythology.  Kullervo is based on the tale of the tragic hero Kullervo, which Tolkien transformed into the story of Túrin Turambar.*  Because I’m such a Tolkien nerd, I find this story fascinating, and the music, happily, lives up to my high expectations.

Sibelius also studied some of the rhythmic and melodic styles of the folk poetry from which the Kalevala was drawn, and incorporated them into some of his compositions, giving the folk poetic tradition something of a voice in modern musical tradition, which it otherwise might never have had.

A prolific though far more recent composer, Einojuhani Rautavaara, though most of his music seems to have little relation to the Kalevala, wrote an early piece called The Myth of Sampo, named after a legendary treasure that appears several times in the epic.

The music of Finland demonstrates the power of the Kalevala to influence national culture in the musical realm, in addition to inspiring generations of Finnish literature, visual art, and political activism.  Arising from unique circumstances in the birth of the nation of Finland, Lönnrot’s epic clearly holds a cultural status rivaled by few other works in the world, maintaining a surprising degree of influence over the art of its native land even to the present day.


I’ve included some links to YouTube, where you can find some of the pieces I’ve mentioned above:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8HF1QI25lM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zpXPq-lHSM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16G0OUMvL3A

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