Orchestra Tuning Up

Is this the way the universe once sounded?
A mass confusion of discordant trumpets,
Flutes, horns, and violins like baffled comets
Without a geometric course, confounded?

Can this be how the universe was founded?
An orchestra of galaxies in commotion,
Celestial bodies bent upon collision,
Spinning around infinity, surrounded

By instrumental and galactic clamor—
Drums, cymbals, bursting stars and unformed planets,
Crashing asteroids and untuned clarinets?
Outside the pit, eternity’s conductor,

Unseen, hears all the discord in the cosmos
Of music; steps out from its restless shadows,
Aligns and orchestrates its muddled matter,
Arranging measured sounds in perfect order

And, lifting his baton, already hears
The music of Pythagorean spheres.



Mass in B Minor: Sepultus Est …. Et Resurrexit!

“The words at the cadence are ‘sepultus est’ [‘was buried’]. … followed by a moment of pregnant silence before the outburst of joy of ‘Et resurrexit.’ ” —Calvin R. Stapert, My Only Comfort: Death, Deliverance, and Discipleship in the Music of Bach

Three days are present in that pregnant pause
Between “sepultus est” and what comes next. It
Hangs there soundless over all that was,
Waiting. Music, with perfect instinct, checks it-
Self, and hovers, fully animate,
Inexorably observing its own laws,
Then bursts in perfect time with “Resurrexit!



Cynthia Erlandson is a poet and fitness professional living in Royal Oak, Michigan.  She has had poems published in First Things, Modern Age, Measure Journal, Anglican Theological Review, The North American Anglican, Forward in Christ, and the Anthologies The Slumbering Host (ed. Clinton Collister), and A Widening Light, (ed. Luci Shaw)

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6 Responses

  1. Julian D. Woodruff

    “Crashing asteroids and untuned clarinets [?]”–the line of the century in my book. I hope there will be a novel, TV series, or movie with that title. It should swim in the minds of countless conductors.
    The “it” line endings in the “Et sepultus” suggest the occasional tinkering with phrase endings that are characteristic of Haydn and Mozart, not so much of Bach and his contemporaries. In the poem, though, they do create a very satisfying rhyme.

  2. Paul Freeman

    The fusion to create an orchestral universe is wonderful, Cynthia.

    I often go to the poetry of the firmament when I need to escape the earthbound stresses and strains.

  3. James A. Tweedie

    A well-known Christian speaker likes to say that the Christian’s approach to life ought to be, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!” So it is with that magnificent “animate” silence prior to the burst of brass and triumph in Bach’s Resurrexit. So worthy of a poet’s praise! Well done, Cynthia. Your tuneful images will be echoing in my head for the rest of the day . . . which, appropriately enough, is Sunday, the first day of the week, the “third day.” As I watch the dawn creep into the sky where I now sit on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, I am surrounded by silence . . . but not for long!

  4. Daniel Kemper

    I very much like what you did with the enjambment between lines 2 and three and lines 3 and four. That was just perfect. One made me hang there while the verse told me about hanging and the other made me wait while it told me about waiting. That’s a terrific effect!

    • Julian D. Woodruff

      I view your comment as something of a rebuttal to mine, Mr. Kemper, and I appreciate it. I am reminded of the advice of Prof. Salemi and others to focus on the poem and not let the particulars of the subject become a distraction.

  5. Monty

    What a splendid idea for a poem, Cynthia; and what an imaginative metaphor to carry the whole thing through. It’s really refreshing to see something so completely different. Bravo.


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