Poetic Response: Absinthe – After Erik Satie’s “Pièces Froides”


The Absinthe Drinker by Viktor Oliva


Fastidious with his tea,
Satie toys with a key —
one key, one note
learned by rote
in the punctilious smoke
of the infinite joke,
drowned in the shuffles
sawdust muffles
of death rattles
from memory’s tatters
and tattle-tailers
that gossip battles.
Wistful melancholy
in the Christmas holly.

Satie keeps the blank
slate blank so the dust
can encrust each ledge
with the sage prophesies
of dust spelling dust
across the white keys
a piano bank needs blank
to attain ecstasies of pause
before the final cause
hesitates to close,
pounds, then pounds,
then hits a pause, then pounds.

What is melancholy
without a dash of irony?
Satie takes a drop
of absinthe in his cup,
and absence dissolves —
the madeleine absolves
the silence of God
within goldenrod,
in fragments of dress
whose keys redress
this tentative touch,
evoking ash to attach
shadows of the missing
to shadows of the living,
as Satie comes to know
God hears only an echo.

Is melancholy cold when old
or warm when retold?

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