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Thoughts While Playing Bach at Midnight
by Carole Bugge

The rain beats a steady rhythm outside my window
a metronome of raindrops
as I sit at my piano and study manuscripts you left behind
tattered at the edges, brittle and browned as an old steak
a book of Bach preludes, a series of journeys into the unknowable
This one marked in your firm, clear hand
"Beautiful" written in the margin, underlined with a single strike of the pen
You diagramed the chord progressions in stern Roman numerals:
I, V, III, IV and back again to one
Always back again, leading as home—always a return to the One,
The tonic, the origin

Even Bach, that great adventurer, always returned home
I imagine your fingers on these keys—playing firmly, voraciously
(you always attacked Bach with a full-throated fury, as if he were Brahms or Mahler—
no tidy Baroque restraint for you)
and I can hear you between the notes, feel the strength of your passion, your
your disappointment with life

But always there was music to come back to
Music could not disappoint you, leave you, slight you, hurt you—
the notes awaited you on the page,
perfect round dots of divinity connected by the rising and falling line
an invitation to order and mathematical precision
melody, harmony—music of the spheres
yet to live inside the mystery, to be at home with the unknowing
The journey, always the journey

They are still there, those notes on the page, waiting for me to take the same
It is the best way to know you
I, V, III, IV and back again


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