Chopin’s Valse de L’Adieu

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
And him. 

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 
Tarnished mirror. 

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 
“My sorrow.”

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,
A vulnerable
And almost yielding
Riddle for which there
Is no answer.


D.M. Reyes
D.M. Reyes
D. M. Reyes teaches university-level English, Literature, and Creative Writing. He keeps track of today’s exciting poetic expressions while teaching creative writing and through occasional duties at the various national writing workshops. He is completing a book of personal essays on Southeast Asia and Japan where he researched on traditional iconography and territorial symbols.


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