Concert at Sunrise House
May 2, 2016
by Len Krisak
A clutch of unmanned walkers crowds the wall
Between the crêpe-hung doorway and a stage
Far over-miked and barely riser-tall.
Taking up assigned positions, each
Voice sits and dons the paper party hat
Staff thinks appropriate to task and age.
The hired sound man twirls a knob; the screech
Of feedback pierces Sunrise Seniors’ Hall.
Intro’d by their leader (twenty-eight
Years old), some frail things step up one-by-one
For solos out of Porter and Berlin;
From Gerschwin and the later Hammerstein.
When all of them are certain where they’re at,
They still join sometimes early, sometimes late.
(These “Melodeers” can’t seem to find the line.)
Notes crack like 13-year-olds come undone,
As we, their auditors, are begged, “Join in.”
Then, mares eat oats and lambs eat oats, and little
That is silly stays unsung . . . till brittle
Timbres melt, as slight Americans
Yearn yet again for bluebirds flying over —
The crippled Spits and wounded Hurricanes
Returning home — the chalk-white cliffs of Dover.
Why not say what happens? All then stand,
And channeling the tiny man who wrote
It, sing until the memory’s final note—
The blessing of our god upon the land.
We file out slower even than the chorus,
Which, with our heartfelt thanks, proceeds before us.
Len Krisak is a poet and scholar of the Classics. His translations — for example, of Horace’s Odes and Virgil’s Eclogues — and his own original poetry have won him numerous awards over the years, including the Robert Penn Warren Prize in 1998, the Robert Frost Prize and the Richard Wilbur Award (both 2000), and The Pinch Prize (2007). Widely published in anthologies and reviews of literature, Krisak has also taught at Brandeis University, Northeastern University, and Stonehill College. He is, moreover, a four-time champion on Jeopardy.