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His Toy, His Dream, His Rest #204

January 30, 2014

Oberlin College has a January term, and some students do an independent project. So for all of January, Walker has been living at home, working on chess studies. Don’t ask me what they are, but they’re absorbing, and they involve lots of books and sitting on the floor moving pieces around on the chessboard. He has gotten results and published them on chess sites and it all sounds very productive.

He’s also been here for dinner, and the occasional game of themed bananagrams (we pick a theme and have to make at least one word related to it), and he’s been singing around the house. It’s good to hear the singing all the time again.

In August, I saw my neighbor from across the street; she asked about Walker’s plans and said she knew I would miss him. “Especially the singing,” I said, and she laughed and said that yes, she’d miss the singing, too. “I get a bit of echo when he’s in the back of the house, but it’s lovely when he’s in the front of the house,” she explained. He has a big voice–evidently, the whole neighborhood enjoys it when it’s nice weather and the windows are open.

Now January is coming to an end, and the house will get quieter. I’ll have music playing in my head, especially after Monday night symphony rehearsals, but I’m increasingly less able to sing it, as my two-octave range continues to shrink. Ron plays music through speakers, maintaining that the trend of listening through earbuds means we don’t share music enough, and he has a point. Like the cat who comes pushing his way into my lap when I’m busy–demanding attention right then– sometimes I need music pushing its way into my day.

When I think of Walker’s music, I think of John Berryman’s #204 from His Toy, His Dream, His Rest. Right now, Walker has a very dream-song-ish way of speaking, it seems to me: Impatient. Intent. Compact. Full of allusions to things I only half-recognize.

Henry, weak at keyboard music, leaned on
the slow movement of Schubert’s Sonata in A
& the mysterious final soundings
of Beethoven’s 109-10-11 & the Diabelli Variations
You go by the rules but there the rules don’t matter
is what I’ve been trying to say.

Huddled, from their recesses, the goblins spring
(I’m playing it as softly as I can)
while the sound goes roaring.
If I scream, who would hear me? Rilke, come on strong
& forget our roles, we’ll play the Housman man
unless, of course, all this is boring.

Tides bring the bodies back sometimes, & not.
The bodies of the self-drowned out there wait,
wait, & the widows wait,
my gramophone is the most powerful in the country,
I am trying, trying, to solve the andante
but the ghost is off before me.

The house won’t echo for too long. I have plans for helping me “solve the andante” like individual conferences with each of the first-year Writing Center staff members, a weekend trip to someplace warm, and getting in to see John Green when he comes to Kenyon.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. January 30, 2014 12:06 pm

    When my younger son and his family were here right after New Year’s, the baby left hand prints all over a mirror we have in the dining room. I left them there until just a week or so ago. I liked seeing the visible proof that they’d been here.

    • February 1, 2014 9:04 pm

      Yes. I tend to not go in the kids’ rooms until right before they’re coming back for a visit.

  2. January 30, 2014 2:32 pm

    It sounds like having Walker home for all of January has been lovely. So glad you’ve been able to enjoy the time like you have.

    • February 1, 2014 9:06 pm

      We did enjoy it. Never enough time to do all the things we’d like to do.

  3. January 30, 2014 5:54 pm

    Oh, it must be nice having him home.

  4. January 30, 2014 9:58 pm

    When I’m away from home, I miss being able to start a song and assume that somebody in the room will join in singing it. I’m with your husband — there’s something very particular and good about being able to share music.

    • February 1, 2014 9:04 pm

      Oh Jenny, you would love Oberlin. One time we were in a restaurant, having a conversation, and Walker sang the first line of a song a little louder than he really intended. A moment later, the second line came floating back at us, from the other side of the restaurant.

  5. January 31, 2014 11:24 am

    Isn’t it wonderful when your kids come home to visit? I’m sure the house will be too quiet now.

    • February 1, 2014 9:07 pm

      It is. I’m feeling a bit like a bird when the forest gets too quiet.

  6. February 1, 2014 3:55 pm

    That sounds like such a lovely way of spending January, just studying a thing you love. I’m glad he was home to spend that time with you :)

    • February 1, 2014 9:09 pm

      The January term as they interpret it is a good idea. Most of those students are so driven, it’s good for them to have some time to work on individual projects. Two of his friends in town had a “book club” where they read books they’d been wanting to read, talked about them, and then wrote a paper.

  7. February 4, 2014 1:47 pm

    Can you record him on the quiet? Then you could listen to him sing even when he wasn’t actually, physically, there.

    • February 4, 2014 2:18 pm

      Oh, I could record him any way, and have some recordings already. He’s not shy about singing, as my across-the-street neighbor has attested. It’s more of the kind of variation on a theme noodling around that I miss. Playing music on purpose is different.

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