Thursday, 23 September 2021

F Fic, Non-fic

An Eavesdrop

on John Steinbeck, Mary Oliver and Antonio Vivaldi


By Marianne Lyon

Antonio walks on stage. Slides onto wooden bench at his Harpsicord. Fingers a few phases of triplets—the maybe beginning of Spring—first movement of his Four Seasons. He hears birds celebrate opening buds, flowers spill out in vast Umbrian field. Andante measures ripple from ivory keys like a creek trickling and he is lost in thought of how to orchestrate these sounds. What instrument sings the song of a Florentine thrush? Will a cello sail listeners over humming ripples of legato stream?


John and Mary listen as he variates just the right collection of notes. John opens East of Eden, flips through; finds a spring description of his Salinas Valley. White Pine collection accompanies Mary onto the stage. She mouths verses that speak of budtime. Antonio looks up; motions then to join him. They look at each other in utter disbelief that from three different worlds, three different times they commune, wonder about each other’s diverse language; how nature breathes through words and sounds.


John says noble crescendos Antonio plays remind him of rush of wind, a gust that drives through tops of California Trees like a wave. Mary says she has always wanted to know where the soul was. Is it wings of a swallow gliding above a Connecticut river, found hidden in a whale bone on Atlantic shore?  She asks Antonio and John if they consider soul when they compose music, write novels. They begin to answer at once, then as it happens sometimes a moment settles and remains for more than a moment, and sound stops.


Mary’s verses explode with passion. Antonio’s hands imitate her wild cadence. John looks on as light of afternoon sun slices through cracks of shuttered windows in bright lines on stage floor. Says he is lonely for land smelling of rain. Lonely for buzzing bees heavy with honey. Memory of these are like music swirling clouds. Mary asks about soul again. Antonio’s fingers an answer with a dance, a theme that rings of rustic bagpipes, nymphs, shepherds jigging wildly. John can’t hear bagpipes; sees stars swimming through wind driven night.


Does an alligator in beautiful Florida have a soul?  What of a hawk rising out of dewy meadow to browse, a Goldfinch; a congregation of poppies? Antonio undulates a two-part invention much like Bach. A polite conversation; more sound than meaning. John scribbles of light so clear that it seems made of bone—the one Mary speaks of.


Mary bids them venture outside, into a constellation of Venetian sunflowers. Antonio hums; nimble hands pantomime a faint wordless poem. A crow flies over. John follows with his eyes; unravels a lucid scene where the only thing moving is that crow. My friends, Mary pleads, "what is the soul?" They tiptoe around the whole subject; then back to elusive that peeps out, withdraws again. They continue their stroll inside a mosaic of light, through flowers shimmering inside the sun; surprised by an unexpected whisper in afternoon breeze.

Marianne Lyon has been a music teacher for 39 years. After teaching in Hong Kong she returned to the Napa Valley and has been published in various literary magazines and reviews. Nominated for the Pushcart Prize 2016. She is a member of the California Writers Club, Healdsburg Literary Guild. She is an Adjunct Professor at Touro University Vallejo California


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