Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Elgar: First Movement (The Man Doomed to Love)

A conductor tenses his baton. A cellist draws her bow.

In an opera box, the man doomed to love checks his breath.

The initial thrum only shocks the spine, but there is a next—and a next—and a next—all plucking at and plundering the white nerves within. He seizes, his knees splay, the clean line of him shredding underneath her assault. Leads sweat, and spark. Vision blurs. An aging body slathers itself with the heat of Pavlovian memory.

The Elgar. Their concerto. Of some twenty, muted years.

He twists the leather glove to restrain his hands from conducting her, from molding her, from beseeching her for that final encore. The fierce abstinence bulges and quivers his neck like the slim reed between her fingers. Those instruments of torment, slashing across his back and chest. How she had bruised and bludgeoned him.

In her pretty dress.

With her pretty, pretty song.

Scars split their seams, and the liquid adagio of a sluggish heart courses into his autumnal skin. Blood surging faster than notes. Sweet delusions, the speed of light.

Their first concert.

Applause like firecrackers.

Her hot kiss on his ear.

The dressing room after.

A crashing of cymbals.

The long reverberation.

An orchestra throbs its gorgeous agony.

He is on point. Vibrato.

Her writhing stokes a golden frenzy about her shoulders as she rocks and inflames the wood between her thighs. A house of longing straddles her strings. She opens her worldly eyes. And smiles at her maestro.

The man doomed to love bites hard on the leather.

And tastes her skin.

Crying out, he lurches to his feet. The cancer of his need wrests him back, back. Back past his wife with her chorus of tears, back past his friends with their requiem faces, back past the velvet shroud . . . back . . . back . . .

Back to somewhere before.

Some time.

When he was his instrument.

And she was his song.

Find the Second Movement here.

[Cello: Jacqueline du Pré; Conductor and husband: Daniel Barenboim; video courtesy of markvogue]


Billy said...

I am always in awe of your highly developed, awesome prose style!!! This is superb!

Anonymous said...

My favorite of yours so far.

I especially like the way the pacing built in intensity, as did the language. I'm not sure I understood every allusion, but I was transfixed. Kind of like standing under roof in midst of a whipping thunderstorm.

Sarah Hina said...

Billy, it felt good to get back in the water after a bit of a drought. I love writing poetry, but these vignettes offer a different challenge.

Thank you, Jason. That means a lot. I tried to drive this one right into the farthest reaches of the balcony.

My only worry was that the mood of the music at the beginning of the movement doesn't really match the intensity of the words. But it gets there soon enough. And I had to provide the video! She is too amazing.

Anonymous said...

I first read the piece via Bloglines, so I didn't have access to the video. I just watched it now. Yes, very inspired and passionate! She seems to be a true conduit for something far deeper.

Sarah Hina said...

Jacqueline's story is a bit tragic, to be sure. She was an amazing prodigy (I think she is only 21 in this video), and owned this particular concerto. So much so that the remarkable cellist Rostropovich retired the piece from his repertoire after hearing her recording.

But she acquired MS in the early seventies, and had to retire by the time she was 28. She died in 1987. Her husband, Daniel Barenboim, is the conductor here. He would conceal from her a long-time affair in the 1980s with a Russian pianist, who became his wife after Jackie's death.

I cannot separate her story from the music. It lends the piece an added poignancy, and compounds the sense of loss.

Aine said...

For some reason this brought the Phantom of the Opera to mind.

The additional info you provided about Jaqueline makes my heart ache. She was an innocent victim in so many ways. What a tragic story. Yet what a blessing that she had this gift to leave behind.

I am very curious to see where you take this...

Sarah Hina said...

I can see the Phantom in this too, Aine. I felt like I was skirting the limits of drama, without wanting to trespass into melodrama or pure erotica. It is a fine line.

As far as Jacqueline is concerned, her story is both heartrending and inspiring. I can't imagine the wretchedness of losing her ability, and becoming a prisoner to her body like that. And yet to have had that gift at all! What a life.

There is a movie called Hilary and Jackie about her and her sister. I saw it years ago, and liked it, though I think there was controversy about the portrayal of Jackie.

I'm curious where I'll take this, too (as in, I have no earthly idea right now ;) )....

Anonymous said...

awwww Sarah this is amazing. You are one heck of a writer you know.

Sarah Hina said...

Thanks, Ruth! And let me just say that I'm really happy to see you blogging again. :)

Ello said...



I am kind of thunderstruck by this for some reason! Riveted. Can't wait to read more.

Sarah Hina said...

I'm going to rock your world, Ello! :)

Um...I hope.

(Thank you!!)

ChrisEldin said...

There is something uncontrollable and doomed. Yet it's not negative. You somehow capture conflicting sentiments and make them feel inspiring.
How do you do that?

Sarah Hina said...

Chris, I think it's hard to turn desire into something altogether negative. Certainly, wanting someone can have a tragic influence on our lives, but it's still about that human-human connection we're seeking. And that need we have to touch and be touched is uplifting.

Thank you! :)

Sheri said...

Sarah, this was beautiful and passionate. Your writing is always so sophisticated and sexy. (And lots of knees parting...) For me, this was my favorite. Intense and painted a vivid picture in my mind.

Beth said...

I'm a bit of musician so love how you put some many musical terms in this writing, but tucked it in instead of being showy with it ... plus you made it fit!

Vesper said...

Just beautiful, Sarah! You are an amazingly talented writer.

Sarah Hina said...

Thank you, Sheri, Beth, and Vesper!

I really do appreciate your thoughtful comments. And I have started on the second section, so hopefully it won't take too much longer for me to post again.

(And Sheri, you're right about the "knees parting" business--I think I need some help!)

Sheri said...

WEll, my mom said, always cross your legs... maybe that will help! :)

The Quoibler said...

Dear lord, your words are enchanting!

I just love the way you mingle words and music and make the whole vision come to life.



P.S. I mentioned this over at Beth's blog, but wanted to mention it to you, too -- I'm holding a poetry contest at my b5media blog "Breaking the Mirror" (www.breakingthemirror.com). Winner gets a really cool book. Feel free to pop over! :)