Aaron Lantz – Five Poems


Drozhzhin Speaks of Winter

Usually, I write my songs in the winter.
I write my songs when it is windy and freezing outside
And when nothing grows
Except for the notes of music
To be harvested by my pen.

Then I take up my notebook
And sit down in front of the fire.
I pull a blanket tightly around my shoulders
And as I wish that the fire would spring a little higher
I begin to compose my music.

These songs don’t grow for me in the summer.
They sleep deeply inside of me
While I cut the hay
In the sunburned fields
That sprawl around my tiny house
In almost all directions.

In those months I spend every daylight hour outside
Working with my hands, swinging my scythe;
Sweating, breathing, singing tunes that have no words,
And living side-by-side with the clouds and birds.
When the sun finally falls,
I go inside and eat a bowl of porridge
To restore the strength I lost during the day.
Sometimes, while I eat, my glance settles
On the place where my notebook rests.
In those moments I am tempted to pick it up again
And open its graying pages.

But then I remember that I am tired from the work of the day
And I finish my supper and go to bed,
Ready to rise before the sun.
I know that winter is coming again,
And when it does,
The time for songs will come again too.
It will come with the blowing of the snow.


Moja Bieda: A Bound Package of Letters
(Frederic Chopin and Maria Wodzinska)

I weave this heavy song like thread
Into the cloth of my remembrance.
I set my sorrow to song instead
So that you and I might dance,
If not in our living days
Then at least in dreams that time betrays…
Maria! I am dying from cruel, hard chance.

The keys of my bleak solitude
Play songs I cannot sing

My lungs are weak, your mother said.
My life is shorter with every breath.
“A husband is no good to you dead,
Look! His eyes are clouded by death.”
You listen to these words and cease
To write me the letters that bring me peace.
Now I lie in dull despair, in its terrifying depth.

The keys of my bleak solitude
Play songs I cannot sing

I wait alone now, and passersby
Hum my music as they go.
Yet you are all that’s in my eye
But our story! They can never know.
My misery must be transformed,
And music halls will be adorned
With a loss I cannot show…

The keys of my bleak solitude
Play songs I cannot sing


Innsbruck Train Station, 1914

Get off the train head turned held up
Hold me up I am falling into a deeper abyss than anyone can imagine
You all know where I’ve come from
What room I have emerged from damaged personally beyond what I am allowed to tell you

If I ever recover I will be judged back into the grave
The station where you hold me just above the mouth
My shoulders sagging around your tense wrists
Love was worth nothing at the end of the morning everything is destroyed
Because we deserve to be destroyed and everything that we create
Everything that creates us

Those clouds are moving further on towards the ground
My ground
A war is approaching climax just like the night the explosions
The beginnings of life which end in shatter
Every morning I look at my own face in a new mirror
They are always new
Because I break them when I’m finished
Cannon and biplanes on the ground
Faces in reflection
Who is my sister now
I am broken before the war is done.


Performance Art
This little exercise isn’t training anymore,
I can’t believe it isn’t the real thing either.
It looks like we’re stuck (the two of us, you know)
Somewhere between practicing for obviously spoiled perfection
And doing away with the whole thing altogether.

Why did we agree to act together?
We shook our eyes, that’s what. Left anything we had
Alone in the resting space above our hard work.
“Get out of here”, we pout to each other disagreeably.
“There’s still time, or there would be if it weren’t for you.”
Nevermind now, let’s just focus on the work at hand.
One foot over the next, fingers crossed, eyes fixed firm ahead
(forget about the staring). After all this isn’t the real thing either.
If this isn’t just a practice, then it’s about nothing at all anymore.
We’re following our own instructions perfectly—foot one,
Foot two. Now cross the fingers, see, intertwine them, just so.
Open eye, forward one, two, three. Don’t mind the curtains,
The sheets that swing and close the space of freedom right outside.
They look a little like ropes, don’t they?
Above all, never pay any attention to outside sounds,
They’re always unnerving if you start to listen to them, really.
Keep your feet moving, don’t ever stop, yes, one foot here, like this.
Eyes forward, fingers crossed. Forward, twist, like so.


Clara Westhoff
(an Informal Sonnet)

Sculpting life below Rodin’s fingers
(they moved faster than yours,
with less delicacy, more like stingers
than brushes painting away the hours

in molded clay.) You lived your art
When you could, asking for less
Of the world than your heart
Secretly longed for… I stress

The way that your life was made
More difficult by the simple fact
That you abandoned no one, but stayed
By the sides of those you could keep intact.

You gave up your Craft for the lives of the mortal living,
We can open any Rilke book to see your Immortal Giving.


Author’s Statement on Beauty

Many of the most wretched things that come our way in life come to us very unexpectedly. More often than not, it is the very nature of the wretched things being unexpected that makes them so wretched in the first. Strangely enough, the most beautiful things in our lives also come to us unexpectedly, as complete surprises. In a way that sharply mirrors the bad surprises being made worse by their unexpectedness, so the beautiful things are also made more beautiful simply by the fact that we never imagined them at all before they were tossed in our faces as if nothing else mattered (before or after!).

This happens in art as well as in life. No one wants to be assigned The Divine Comedy as reading material in school, but the exquisite beauty of suddenly (and accidentally) stumbling upon (or into) La Vita Nuova can open up entirely new worlds to a reader (or listener, since all poetry is music). This sort of beauty as complete surprise is part of what made Rilke’s Duino Elegies so powerful , in that they came upon the poet in a sudden burst of tense inspiration after months of depressed solitude and inactivity. He expected nothing and therefore was all the more bowled over when the inspiration finally came.

That is the same reason that Rory Gilmore was so drawn to Jess after he handed her City Lights Pocket Poets edition of Howl back to her (in Season Two of “Gilmore Girls”) with all of his secret thoughts written out in the previously unmarked margins: to everyone else (and to Rory herself, so far as she had seen so far) Jess was just a quiet kid with problems with authority, and then in a blink of an unexpected eye she saw that he was closer to herself in spirit than anyone else she had ever met. It was the beautifully unexpected, the shock of sudden music becoming a reality. This is what life should be filled with (although not filled too full, or its power will fade), and what all art secretly strives for, looks towards, and embodies.


Aaron Lantz is a writer from Lawrence, KS, where he works long and difficult hours during the day, returning home at night to compose the poetry for which he is not yet well known. His poetry and prose has been featured by Pacifism21 and 100 Thousand Poets for Change.