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Lament of the Organist of the Abbey of Gethsemani

Spring 2015 - Vol. 57, No. 2


This poem appears in the Spring 2015 issue of Modern Age. To subscribe now, go here.


Once more, painfully, he lifts his arms 
And lets them fall as if uncertain about tomorrow. 
How do the fingers remember, the feet pedaling, 
Crossing one over the other, keys and stops, 
Hoarse alto chuff, bass bravado, thin flutings?
Small and weightless, the abbey’s organist, 
The skin on his skull so thin the sutures show 
The sacrifice in his heart and in his soul’s eye.  

This morning a beaded dragonfly landed on my lip; 
I sat at my desk and dreamed of a garden in Rome, 
A dream I hoard greedily like a tiny man. 
My nerves trilled minutely, too deeply fed. 
I wish I had learned to play the
Requiem more generously,
A lucent fugue exalting the heart above its wildness. 


Daniel James Sundahl is professor in English and American studies at Hillsdale College, where he has taught for thirty years.