The Isle of the Dead
In 5/8 time, we row toward our demise.
Rachmaninoff supplies the oars, the boat
the waves, the craggy cliffs, the leaden skies.
All we must do is watch and sit and float
and eventually die. It isn’t much to ask
as his A minor pulls our heft along
creating streams and hewing to his task
of rendering our last gasp as a song.
Musicians make up tone poems because
they’re blessed half-mutes whose notes are mostly noise
that can’t express as words. They hate these flaws
which can’t be hidden, just finessed, with poise.
And knowing that music is mostly breath
they punish poets’ eloquence with death.
Johnny Payne is Director MFA in Creative Writing at Mount Saint Mary's University in Los Angeles. He has published two previous volumes of poetry, as well as ten novels. In addition, he writes and direct plays in Los Angeles and elsewhere. His plays have been produced professionally and on university stages.