After a year of hesitant whispers,
Their mutual nod
To terminate the engagement.
Clouds of unknowing
Drift over Paris,
The syllogism of parting
Known only to Maria Wodzińska
Perhaps, it was her dread
Of his unrelenting winter fever—
That famished lout gnawing
At his lungs, bound to consume him
Fourteen years hence;
Or the strain of a well-tempered
Future, never enticing a sullen
Pianoforte Master—no crisp apples
Or squad of children full of beans,
Glimpsed from his salon’s
No one knows.
He does not shred
Or set to flames the avid letters
That they had sent each other.
He merely bundles them,
Inscribed with the words
Such weight of parting
Would not possess his heart
Until a year after.
For it is only 1835.
He sits before the Pleyel piano,
Essaying yet another sedate waltz,
Scrawling its hurried notation—
Simple and quite lightsome to play,
The base notes not deep,
All within an octave’s reach.
Yet where each brief section
Ends, the closing chord amounts
To a finality oddly fickle,
The heart note altered—
Purged of crippling grief,
Denied those chromatics of rage
Stripped of curt farewell,
As only aggrieved hands
Could deliver them.
The fracture keens elsewhere.
Between this waltz and their parting,
If we insist on the chronology,
Were the days with George Sand,
Her mind’s melody seducing him.
Another year and their encounter
Would inspire nocturnes of turmoil.
Until then, only this farewell waltz
Styled quite errantly modern,
Devoid of romantic fire.
Does Fryderyk’s teasing melody
Hint merely at love’s shallow bruise
Or has he stacked a quivering phrase
Somewhere, the line asserting
The undeniable answer, semaphoring
The logic of severance.
Two hundred years later,
In a tropical room sagging
With books, the same
Farewell waltz unwinds,
Artless as Chopin first played it,
Languorous and precise,
Its locked core
Taunting my ears,
A grave and throbbing,
And almost yielding
Riddle for which there
Is no answer.