Attending Gigi at the Reclaimed Mason-Hamlin Baby Grand: A Creative Process

“all these
silent images on their shadowy river”
(W. S. Merwin)*

Too many to contain within the arranged space
of what we now choose to call the Conservatory,
her piano a dominant chord, drawing all
eyes and ears to its size, not so baby
in what was, before its arrival, the living room,
now too much rising from the keys,
their grin of yellowed teeth, missing ivory
returned maybe to the graveyard
of tusk-less elephants, ghosts
bearing the heavy remembrances.

How did I find myself here?
Erik Satie’s dancing Spartans, choreography
of Gymnopedies, warriors exposed, only
a shield for defense, all swords laid down
by the riverside, a kind of gnosis,
spiritual knowledge freed to rise and
shadow this room transposed from Gigi’s
arched fingers tender on the bruised keys,
river of shadow and light–what meaning
appearing only in flickers of language,
images speeding past the windows
of a family car, surreal landscape,

Suzanne Valadon: Portrait of Erik Satie, oil on canvas, 1892; in the National Museum of Modern Art, Paris

Satie’s one night with an artist, marriage
proposed in the morning. How did she last,
her “lovely eyes, gentle hands, and tiny feet,”
six months, not even Debussy’s
Clair de Lune could melt the “icy loneliness”?

What did you think: poets don’t do research,
only the make believe of measured
word-bubbles floating from the sound board
to be popped? Such music compelling
the bourgeois bohemian, velvet gentleman?
Pince-nez, bowler hat, umbrella.

Ramon Casas (1891): Erik Satie, Moulin de la Galette (“The Bohemian”)

River of light and darkness, fusion of song
and absence, cabaret pianist and Messe de pauvres.
Mist. Breath. Water. Shadow. Smoke.
What you see, what you hear, is more than
composer notes penciled in the margins,
no explanation needed for
that dreamy fish breaking the surface.

*Merwin, W. S. “Not Early Or Late.” Garden Time, Copper Canyon Press, 2016, p. 5.

Sources About Erik Satie: