Apr/May 2017 Poetry Special Feature

Beethoven's Hearing

by Bob Bradshaw

Photographic image © 2017 Stuart Gelzer

Photographic image © 2017 Stuart Gelzer

Beethoven's Hearing

Without hearing, how could he work?
His spoiled life threatened to become

an ordinary one. Would he be forgotten,
an obscure footnote in Vienna's salons?

All afternoon his friends
exchanged jokes and raised toasts

but for Ludwig the conversation
was the noise of breaking surf.

Only a few words from the gentleman
next to him were audible.

A reputation for absent mindedness
saved Ludwig from mockery

as he gazed into the distance,
like a violinist adrift

in a sweet solo. How he longed
to talk with fellow musicians,

and to flirt with Countess von Kegelwicz,
who lived across from his apartment.

Late at night he would cross the street
in slippers and nightgown, to tutor her

on the piano. How could he court anyone
except through music?

He would dedicate his concertos to her
the way others offer flowers!

Ludwig was always in love
with someone. Yet he dined alone

as much as any bachelor in Vienna.
Still, hadn't he always lived in solitude,

keeping his thoughts to himself—
happiest when he was on long walks,

waving his arms and singing along
to scraps of music in his head?


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