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    painting of moon and clouds reflected in water

    Poem: “Clair de lune

    By Jean L. Kreiling

    July 29, 2023
    • Beverly George

      This is breathtakingly beautiful and a testament to the sensitivity and talent of the poet and her mother.

    • Sally Gustie

      Jean, this is such an eloquent poem that is such a lovely tribute to your mother and your love for each other. As always, your poetry enriches the soul!

    This poem is the winner of Plough’s 2023 Rhina Espaillat Poetry Award.

    from Claude Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque in memory of my mother

    There’s D-flat major at the first and last,
    but in between, a haze of harmonies
    yearns lightward, though the light has long since passed.

    I played the notes; she heard the light. The keys
    were mine to coax and animate; their sound
    was hers to claim: a shimmer of heart’s ease.

    And while my fingers stretched and danced and found
    their way through black and white, her ear would find
    a prism—her own light parsed and unbound.

    She had a knack for joy and was inclined
    to wonder. Clair de lune had mesmerized
    her, in a spell that left me far behind.

    After my mother’s death, I was surprised
    I still played it so often; I suppose
    the effort occupied and organized

    my sorrow-scattered mind. So in the throes
    of grief, I practiced, as if I’d impress
    a ghost with my devotion. And in those

    half-haunted hours, I mastered more, I guess,
    than just the notes. I hadn’t thought I’d learn
    to hear what she did—but through some finesse

    of time and skill and need, I now discern
    the half-lit murmurings that no midnight
    can mute, the moon-pale promise that can turn

    unrest to peace, a star-sung appetite
    for breath. At last I share my mother’s light.

    painting of moon and clouds reflected in water

    Félix Vallotton, Clair de lune, detail, oil on canvas, ca. 1894.

    Listen to Claude Debussy’s Clair de lune on piano.

    Contributed By JeanKreiling Jean L. Kreiling

    Jean L. Kreiling is professor emeritus of music at Bridgewater State University and an associate poetry editor for Able Muse: A Review of Poetry, Prose & Art.

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