A String Quartet inspired by three Poems by David Patek
Julia Noone, Violin I
Pippa Jarvis, Violin II
Michaela Yule, Viola
Annie Tsao, Violincello
The path narrows as you go,
A last steep ascent through fir
That whisk brushes arms and face.
A stonewall with one removed,
Is doorstep to an upland space,
Where blueberry, fern, and hardhack grow.
And there in tall grasses,
An unscreened, weathered porch,
A still, reclining woman reads.
Her summer cotton dress is white,
The color of her hair,
Swept up and out of way.
A glance over glasses,
And she sets her book of Mann aside,
To call out "Hello, dear boy!"
I climb the last three steps,
From lichen covered granite slab,
And come to rest against the railing.
We drink chilled spring water,
And listen for a distant thrush,
Above the insistent susurrus of insects.
I remember more of what you did than said, John.
How you cupped your hand
to light a cigarette,
how you spread the ash
on the knee of your overalls.
Was that a lesson of the War?
You were always on the ground,
measuring, cutting, passing up to
us aloft on ladders, roofs and haymows.
Were there heights enough in the Signal Corps?
Your hands that never erred
in a measure or a cut
had a tremor that
smoking would not calm.
Was mustard gas in the War the cause?
Your pride was in steadiness,
to finish well done, not first or last,
not slapped together or fussy slow.
Did that steadiness save you in the War?
And last, your kindness I remember
to the two John's of another war,
who working for you, could not forget
the anguish of those days.
That was you John, and not a lesson of the War.
Six winters since you left, my friend
Killed by a freckle you never saw nor felt.
A freckle, among your many, that changed its face
And under cover would deceive your faith.
A faith that nature is at bottom good
And may make sense if understood.
You wryly called these tumors "buddies"
That needed chiding like an errant child.
All you asked for was some time
To give to others what you knew
Of them, their history and their town,
To walk in woods so dear to you.
I will think of you now Bob
As the heartwood of a cherry tree.
(It was your favorite wood to work with)
The surface rubbed it glows and warms our wintry days.