Wagner's Dreams
    Alissa Leigh
Above the low roofs of the town of Bayreuth,
above its thickened air and its slender river,
above the dark forests of Bavaria,
Wagner is flying. His sideburns flutter.
He's asleep, he's dreaming, Tristan's chord
moves painfully across the German earth.
Wagner is asleep, his strength has ebbed,
he no longer climbs trees in the orchards
of friends or slides down their banisters;
he's asleep, his ego subdued for good.
Let him sleep, let him inhabit his dreams,
where he forgets all his frustrations,
his years of poverty, illegitimate birth,
his embittered revolutionary pride.
Let him inhabit his dreams, the only place
where he defers to another human being,
where he points out to Schopenhauer 'a flock'
of nightingales which the master has already
seen; his dreams, the only place where
he defers to compassion, to the noumenal,
to the unity of wrongdoer and wronged.
His dreams, where he is finally reconciled
with the phantom 'otherness' of Jews,
where he talks quietly with Mendelssohn,
calling him Du; where his abashed apology
to Meyerbeer, 'a certain Jewish composer',
is applauded by an enthusiastic audience.
Let Wagner sleep, let him live in dreams,
don't let him out, let him dream his music,
where he finds love beyond sex, belonging
beyond blood, longing tempered by form.
In music, where the sound of redemption
is something fresh, a drink of clear water,
the voice of a young girl, a flute. Let him
seek refuge in music, where the sweating
bourgeoisie can't flatter him, where even
Ludwig's search patrol can't track him down.
Let him dream, turn his portrait to the wall.
Keep the earth firmly packed on his lips.
Let him float on the wings of music, across
a dark landscape where he meets Beethoven
but also Mahler, Schoenberg, Shostakovich,
and reads in their scores the symphonies
he never wrote (continuous melody) which
show him he may have been wrong, that
death is not a triumph nor birth a defeat,
that art cannot replace the world, that we're
released from the will by love, a free gift,
or grace, the same, that the final chord,
resolving our pain, is not written by us.

Alissa Leigh studies Russian history at the University of London, taking her B.A. in 1996. She won a Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowshin from "Poetry" magazine in 2001 and currently holds a Brown Foundation Fellowship in creative writing. Her work has appeared in "Poetry," "Verse," and "North" (UK).


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