One Summer Day

An allusion to Beethoven

While walking through the woods one summer day,
he glanced along a river, clear and bright,
saw bubbling notes like dappled fish at play,
and dashed them off that night by candlelight.
Meandering down coniferous-scented trails
where chickadees and tree frogs made such noise,
he didn’t hear a thing except the scales
and chords and cadences that were his toys.
He couldn’t hear the leaves in the aspen thickets,
the deer flies buzzing round his graying hair,
the sound of countless madly rasping crickets,
nor the peals of far-off thunder in the air.
Yet who can miss those leaves, that summer breeze,
that river rushing through his symphonies?


Vernal Musings

A hundred thousand million galaxies
in motley clusters rapidly receding
from one another — like a bunch of bees
repelled by tainted nectar they’d been eating —
is a sure sign the cosmos is inflating,
as is the vocal structure of the frog
now calling out across the water, waiting,
as patient as the shadows in this bog.
With every croak, his throat must grow then shrink.
But will that happen to the universe?
Well, you can speculate and muse and think
and theorize and wonder and immerse
your thoughts in such abstract considerations
while I sit listening to frog vibrations.


In Harmony with the Universe

As happy as a frog on a lily pad,
I stretched and meditated. Soon they came
and locked me up and told me it’s a shame
they’ll be abusing me, for I was bad.
They took me when I was an undergrad
at Peking University, their aim:
extinguishing my wish to play this game
of noncompliance. “Be a docile lad.”

Before they put my eyes out with a prong,
I said, “You boys should practice Falun Gong
to palliate your tetchiness and fury.
Moreover, I demand to have a jury!”
Before they slit my throat (they said, “for sinning”)
I whispered, “This is merely the beginning …”


Martin Elster, author of There’s a Dog in the Heavens!, is also a composer and serves as percussionist for the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. His poems have appeared in such journals as Astropoetica, The Flea, The Martian Wave, The Rotary Dial, and in the anthologies Taking Turns: Sonnets from Eratosphere, The 2012 Rhysling Anthology, and New Sun Rising: Stories for Japan. Martin’s poem, “Walking With the Birds and the Bones Through Fairview Cemetery” received first place in the Thomas Gray Anniversary Poetry Competition 2014, and “Talcott Mountain” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by The Chimaera.

Featured Image: Ludwig van Beethoven portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820.

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One Response

  1. Lew Icarus Bede

    One Summer Day by Martin Elster
    by Lew Icarus Bede

    One Summer Day, a recent sonnet come before my eyes, by Hartford poet Martin Elster, is a nice surprise. I wonder if he saw those images while listening, as I have done on hearing Ludwig Van Beethoven’s strings. I like his casual beginning…”through the woods…one day,” as Elster starts his poem with a lyrical chiché. But then moves through his first quatrain with animated boon, with Hopkins-esque technique, converting nature into tune, as he suggests Beethoven did. And then proceeds, so moved, throughout the octave and the sestet—glad at what he’s proved.

    One note:
    If I may suggest, in a presumptuous manner, though certainly not as thick-headedly as Wordsworth did in Coleridge’s Rime, I would alter a few lines; though dare one micro-manage artistic creation?

    In line five, I would remove coniferous’ four syllables to two, pine-cone-scented, fir-cone-scented, or… something else.

    In line nine, I would remove the second the.

    In line twelve, I would remove the first the.

    Finally, the couplet is Gray-like in its finesse, and I like Elster’s sonnet better than most of our era. It reminds me of the more structured, but less fluid, bilding by Germanmusicloving critic Ewald E. Eisbruc, who also likened Beethoven’s music to a river, albeit more specifically.

    On Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Second Movement
    by Ewald E. Eisbruc

    I am inspired by music from Beethoven’s Ninth,
    and in particular, the Second Movement, which
    is filled with energy, exciting as the Rhein,
    and taken to an extraordinary pitch.
    The scherzo is dynamic, from the opening
    announcement, brazen and spectacular. Unhitched
    D minor triads split. The beat, like Dopamine,
    increases heart rate and blood pressure. It goes wild.
    The patterns make me spin, so much is happening,
    but they’re so wonderful, that I am reconciled
    to them, though scattering; they scurry to the nth
    degree, like hounds that chase a fox across a field.


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