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Category: me in B major

Dmitri Shostakovich – “Symphony No 4” in C minor, opus 43


   “Portrait of Joseph Stalin (Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili) (1936)

                   Pavel Filonov


if you’ve been waiting for a Shostakovich 
to write home about among his early 
symphonies, here’s the one, his 
Symphony no 4 in C minor, opus 43 will
knock your socks off from its very 
opening gambit, have a seat, settle in, 
and get ready for an explosive hour

the Fourth was written in 1936, some 
years after the death of Lenin, and the 
instalment of Stalin as the supreme, 
and ruthless, authority, after several 
years throughout the Twenties of
maneuvering himself, cold-bloodedly,
into that position 

from Stalin, Death is the solution to 
all problems. No man – no problem.

fearing retribution after Stalin had 
criticized his recent opera, Lady 
Macbeth of Mtsensk“, Shostakovich 
cancelled the first performance of 
this new work, due to take place in 
December, ’36, others had already 
suffered internal exile or execution 
who had displeased the tyrant, a 
prelude to the infamous Great Terror

the Symphony was eventually played
in 1961, 25 years later, conducted by
no less than Kirill Kondrashin, who’d
partnered Van Cliburn a few years 
earlier in Cliburn’s conquest of Russia
but along with this time however the 
long-lived Leningrad Philharmonic 

to a friend, I said, this is the biggest
thing since verily Beethoven, no one 
has so blown me away symphonically 
since then

he looked forward, he replied, to 
hearing it 

the Fourth Symphony has three distinct 
movements, to fit thus appropriately the 
definition of symphony, though the first 
and third have more than one section, 
something Shostakovich would have 
learned from already Beethoven, it gives 
the opportunity of experiencing a variety 
of emotions within one uninterrupted 
context, add several movements and 
you have a poignant, peripatetic musical 
journey, more intricate, psychologically 
complex, than many other even eminent
composers, Schubert, Chopin, 
Mendelssohn, even Brahms, for instance 

it’s helpful to think of film scores, and 
their multiple narrative incidents,
brimming with impassioned moments,   
however disparate, Shostakovich had 
already written several of them

let me point out that Shostakovich’s 
rhythms are entirely Classical, even 
folkloric in their essential aspects, 
everywhere sounds like a march, 
proud and bombastic, if not a 
veritable dance, peasants carousing,
courtiers waltzing, and repetition is
sufficiently present to not not 
recognize the essential music 
according to our most elementary

but the dissonances clash, as though 
somewhere the tune, despite its rigid 
rhythms, falls apart in execution, as 
though the participants had, I think,  
broken limbs, despite the indomitable 
Russian spirit

this is what Shostakovich is all about, 
you’ll hear him as we move along 
objecting, however surreptitiously,
cautiously, to the Soviet system, like 
Pasternak, like Solzhenitsyn, without 
ever, like them, leaving his country 
despite its manifest oppression, and 
despite the lure of Western accolades,
Nobel prizes, for instance, it was their 

and there is so much more to tell, but
first of all, listen

R ! chard 






             Vicente Manansala


in the regular line at the market today, 
not the express line, the man ahead of 
me turned towards me and looked at 
my basket quizzically

are you after my crackers, I said,
jovially, I’ve been stocking up on 
a favourite brand on sale 

no, he said, but you could be in 
the express line with your only 
five articles

I don’t mind the wait, I replied, and I 
didn’t take the time to count

I hate waiting in line, he said, I want 
to get out of here as quickly as 

I’ve slowed everything down to a 
snail’s pace, I said, it makes you, 
I think, a nicer person, plus you 
get to smell the basil and the 

I guess I’m not a nice person, he 
countered, not at all, I replied, you 
are evidently friendly, you addressed 
me, you were concerned, put forth a 
desire to help

he glistened, blushed, was manifestly 
nonplussed, speechless, then his turn 
came up at the check-out counter

at the cash he glowered at some
empty baskets that had been left
there unattended, discombobulating 
his station, I refrained from  
instinctively moving them myself, 
since I would’ve lost my place in line 
in the process, and though I might 
sometimes be gracious, I am mostly 
not subservient, though that’s up still 
for some metaphysical consideration

I made it home with my five items,
the sky was blue, but again there’s 
smoke above the mountains 
shrouding the eastern horizon, 
from forest fires burning inexorably 
in our Interior

the sky is falling, we need to take 
care of each other, ourselves

R ! chard

me in the key of B major – my birthday‏


Bad Boy” 
          Eric Fischl
                                le coeur a ses raisons que 
                                la raison ne connaît point
                                ( the heart has its own, 
                                 inscrutable to reason, 
                                                                 – Pascal
my birthday is coming up
long I held that I’d been premature, 
my birthday was not after the 
requisite number of months for a 
legitimate pregnancy, but I held to 
the private drama of my story rather
than ask my parents any questions, 
only later during adolescence did I 
find out from my sister that had 
not been premature
that I could have so misconstrued
astonished me at the time, how 
narrow could be one’s apparently 
infinite perspective, how confined 
and misdirected, a lesson never 
easily, however recurrent, learned,
see love
my father would never have forsaken
my mother, nor ever has, he was a 
principled man, a responsible man, 
a man who prized his honour, his 
friends’, his family’s
the men in his family were such, all
devoted husbands, though one, late
in life when the children were grown, 
left his wife for greener pastures, 
became a nudist, his wife used to 
change her clothes in the closet, 
he later on complained
as a corollary, he cultivated in his 
new environment many girlfriends, 
it appears, despite, by thenhis 
advanced age
about my aunts, however, my other 
uncle used to say that though he 
had five sisters, he had 17 
brothers-in-law, which isn’t counting 
the ones who hadn’t been husbands, 
I’d add
put some clothes on, Cid, my aunt
Doris, his sister, said, one morning 
when he was visiting, he was coming 
down the stairs to breakfast – they all 
then, three sons, Aurèle, or Aurelius, 
Cid, Alcide, and my dad, Conrad Hector, 
had the heroic names of Greek and 
Roman warriors, of even, some more 
distant uncles, Hebraic characters, 
Ephraïm, for instance, owing to our 
French, therefore Latin, background 
my aunts’ names werehowever,  
more prosaic, common
my aunt Doris, of the sisters, was, 
perhaps the most uncharacteristically, 
prim, though I suspect she didn’t 
change in a closet, but I would’ve 
never used even the word “penis” in 
front of her for fear of causing her 
alarm, though clearly she’d grown 
up among them
she is also the first aunt I confided
in about my controversial then 
situation, after, of course, having 
told my parents, they would know, 
I knew, I had therefore to be the 
first to tell them, but only once I’d 
found my own closet, my own 
home of my own
I’m in love, I’m in love, I’m in love,
I said to her over the phone
what’s her name, she asked
his name is John, I retorted
how wonderful, she replied, but, 
let me hand you over to your 
Aunt Anne, her sister, she said, 
while I pick myself up off the 
my Aunt Anne was, as usual, only
love and compassion, though she 
never had any children she raised 
at least six, none her own, all of 
whom remained ever profoundly 
to my other relatives, that information
was later on only implicit, and I was 
grateful to have found from them only 
ever love and acceptance, my own 
particularities were understood to be 
anyone’s, everyone’s, we all had our 
inclinations, what mattered was the 

me in the key of B major – 60 Jubilee East (the master bedroom)‏


            Eric Fischl 
at the bottom of the stairs on the left,
there was my parents’ bedroom, the
master bedroom, an inner sanctum
where things of only great import 
took place, where behind its closed 
doors, my mom and dad would 
propose, concoct, discuss, ponder, 
deliberate, envision, enact, create 
the structure that would be the 
elements of our lives 
interestingly, no children were 
conceived there, we, my sister and 
I, had shown up earlier, and by then  
my parents had settled on only two 
children, were already blessed with 
the order they had preferred, an 
older boy, and a slightly younger 
girl, where more would’ve been 
financially impracticable
the Catholic Church disapproved 
of such practicality then, and my 
folks would’ve been refused 
communion had they ever been 
to church, but by then such 
observance had become irrelevant 
to them, despite their Christian still
and their plans were to transcend 
rather the humble beginnings the 
Church would’ve confined them to, 
if not also the very mores of the day,
it was still only the mid Fifties, God 
would die in the early Sixties only,  
after which women would get the 
and the world changed
there also had I been taken to heal, 
in the darkened room, when I had 
the measles, I remember waking  
up weary in someone’s arms, my 
mother’s, my father’s, to be paraded 
into the kitchen for a moment, then 
returned to the inner, recuperatory, 
also, for the talk, when my dad 
figured it was time to speak to 
me about guy things, girl things, 
birds, bees
I told him they were called penis,
and vagina, but he already knew 
nomenclature had nothing to do 
with it, that a rose by any other 
otherwise our chambers were 
private, each our place of private
recuperation, regeneration, 
contemplation, creativity, sleep, 
dreams, all of us respectful of 
each others’ inviolable space 
evereach with a room of our 




me in the key of B major – 60 Jubilee East, the bathroom‏

Numériser 3
me, at 54 Jubilee East, by the woodpile

 les enfants, my mother
would call, wake up children, it’s time 
to get ready for school
we’d scuttle down the stairs from our 
the vent that crouched between the 
toilet and the wall that enclosed, at 
a ninety degree angle to the toilet, 
the tub 
the vent allowed hot air to come up 
from the oil furnace my dad ‘d only
recently put up in the basement, the
foundation for the house he would 
slide the old chicken coop from the 
back of the property onto, to build  
our new home
where the bathroom would be, there’d 
been a wood stove, we children would 
dress there, beside the hot oven, then,
while my mom got ready for work, the 
lady up front, in the only house that
had been there at the start of all this, 
54 Jubilee East, now rented from my 
folks, and took care of us while both 
my parents were working
I very vaguely remember this, but I 
remember well heading towards the 
heat, putting on my socks, 
underclothes, there, until the chill 
fell out of the morning
often my sister got there first, but I did
so also often, there was never any 
dissension, we were two consensual 
peas in a pod, each the other’s keeper
my mother had had to chop wood, she 
told me, and haul water, during the winter
my dad had gone north to work, up near 
James and Hudson Bays
she’d heat the water on the stove, there 
was no electricity, nor power tools, my 
aunt, her sister, had had to chop the 
wood cause my mother couldn’t 
manage, the axe ‘d bounce off the 
block she’d be trying to chop
my dad ‘d set up timber against our
meagre living quarters, what I’d later 
callsardonically, our manger, to 
supply my mom for the winter he’d 
be gone
my mother couldn’t’ve been more than 
twenty years old, then, her sister a few 
years younger, my own sister had barely 
been born, would’ve been not one 
this could explain why my mother cried 
I would’ve

me in the key of B major – im/patience‏


                     “Patience (1542)

                        Giorgio Vasari
if I would’ve, my mother said
if you what, I interrupted
if I would’ve, my mother said
if you what, I again interrupted
whereupon she became rattled,
disoriented, unable to even see
the sentence, never mind the
words therein swimming, in
very genetic accord with my 
sister, see my sister
she took a deep breath, as I much
earlier, on another matter, had urged, 
propped herself up, and corrected 
herself, if I had, she said, and 
continued her sentence with the 
proper grammar, if I had, I would’ve 
I was relieved, I sighed, surely, that 
it hadn’t been the more obstreperous 
if I wouldn’t’ve, another related error, 
which would’ve required several more 
deep breaths to unravel, I’m sure, a 
chaos of conditionals confronting an 
innocent enough negation can be a 
not especially edifying sight  
I am, as my father was, exacting, as 
has always also been my mom, and 
I have a hard time with incorrect 
grammar, I cringe at it, much as they 
did when I didn’t properly vacuum 
their floor  
now, of course, but before my new 
housekeeper, I would go under the 
rug and into all the even most
impracticable corners, a great 
lesson having been learned 
you’re too impatient, she had 
complained, in a wretched voice 
that expressed her distress
what do you mean, impatient, I 
said, it had been about the 
computer that time, how to 
learn to use it, for people of a 
certain age, it is a new, and 
next to inscrutable, language
I was patient
I said take a deep breath, I said,
I said I have all in the time in the 
world to wait, which I did, I said
just do it, she did it, and is now
comfortable at her computer
but I touch up her grammar now 
and then, when it falters 
my sister can also now, of course,  
tell the time 
I have prayed for patience, it is
the work of a lifetime, and it often 
looks like impatience, even to 
also the reverse

in the key of B major – 60 Jubilee East, the kitchen‏


                                           Grandma’s Kitchen
                                                   Jacek Yerka
coming down the staircase to the main 
living areas, a wall on the left, a railing 
on the right, after the ladders we’d 
scramble up to our beds on while my 
father was still building had been 
removed, led to the kitchen
had the staircase wall continued, it 
would’ve divided that larger, brighter 
space from the smaller living room, 
where we’d curl up in our pyjamas, 
listen to music, watch television, in 
grainy black and white then, until
the scheduling day had ended with
test pattern, then just snow
but at the kitchen table, and from 
very early on, discussions took 
place about everything, my dad at 
the head of the table, with his back 
to the kitchen cupboards, my mom 
at the opposite end surveying the 
counter, my sister up against 
the window, while I looked on
my grandmother would often 
stand by the cupboards chewing 
on a piece of something or other 
she’d just served as she made 
sure our places were all, and ever, 
in order, with more sauce, more 
potatoes, more lemon pie or 
chocolate cake, if we desired, 
before she left to go the bingo 
what time is it, my father’d ask my 
sister, the clock was above the sink, 
whereupon she would become rattled, 
disoriented, unable to even see the 
clock, never mind the numbers there
swimming, would never get it, 
therefore, right, to my dismay, to her
greater distress
just like my mom, I found later,  
whenever I ask too pressing a question, 
whereupon I presume I must have, 
must have inherited, the temperament 
of my dad, in my, not necessarily 
there are advantages to being held 
to account, for both the held and 
the holder, though the quality of
mercy must always, and invariably, 
be served
my dad had been in the war, believed
in discipline, as it was the ethos of
the time, father knew best, father
ran a tight ship, an unflagging one,
my father applied himself to being
a valiant example of such, and was 
my mom, as was her duty then
followed in my dad’s determined 
footsteps, while my grandmother 
looked on, wise with her years
I want to be as wise as my 
grandmother, I remember telling 
myself when I was young, that 
was my greatest wish
on the back wall of the kitchen, the
stove from mid wall looked onto 
the fridge, while the fridge looked 
back on everything, I remember 
when we first got the refrigerator 
my mother cried, one would buy 
things on instalment then, only get 
it once it was paid, long before credit
I remember her burning the popcorn
at the stove, flying out the back door
with the popcorn grid all in flames,
long before microwaves

me in B major – 60 Jubilee East, the attic‏


I’m the one on the right


been a door originally, from which 
they would’ve swept out hay, I’d
think, where chickens might’ve 
roosted, but my dad had built a 
couple of bedrooms for us there, 
my sister and I, one at either end 
of what would’ve been that attic
much of this is conjecture, I don’t 
remember living in the chicken
coop, though I remember living
in the garage, there’d been an
outhouse behind it, and men
would come over to clean it out
every so often
there was also a milkman, who led
horse and milk wagon, and for 
whom we’d clean out and return 
the bottles
also in summer, a man with a pony
for kids took pictures, I still have
ours imprinted on a cup
between our bedrooms, my dad had
built a closet, where we could both 
hang all our clothes, and beside it,
on either side, a row of shelves we
could individually use adjoining our 
separate bedrooms, hers was pink, 
mine was blue, baby blue, this was 
probably already more than most 
other kids had, though I would’ve 
been too young to be aware of it  
behind the closet, there was a door 
into a confined area under the roof,
with beams and an itchy brush that
served as insulation, we were 
curious but ever too afraid to go in 
there, where confinement lurked, 
nor had I wanted to get into the dryer 
down in the basement for the same 
reason, I might, I told myself, lock 
myself in
a short staircase towards the back of 
the house led onto a landing, where
a window looked out onto our back 
yard, if I remember well, and beyond 
that to the brush that preceded the 
forest, and a rocky elevation
a longer staircase in the other direction
took us downstairs, into the main living 
my sister and I were only a year apart,
I was older, protective, she was younger,
trusting, this has never changed

me in B major – 60 Jubilee East‏


                                        our home, when I was a boy
a cousin of mine, who, indeed, lived
in the sliver of a house on the left in 
the above picture, sent my mom and 
I this photo of the house I used to live 
in, back when I was a boy
he’d been visiting an aunt of his, who 
still lived around the corner, and 
noticed that our place was up for sale
should I put in an offer, he asked on
his cell phone
it’s smaller than my apartment, I said,
amazed that two parents and two 
children could live till I was at least 
fourteen in such a small enclosure
it had been a chicken coop before my 
father made it into our home, after we’d 
moved out of the garage that went with 
my cousin’s house, but my dad’d moved  
it forward from further behind its eventual 
garage, pictured above, closer to the 
street, added an attic, where we children  
each had a room, and a basement, 
complete with a sauna room that 
doubled as a bomb shelter should the 
Soviets strike
this was not, to my mind, so far-fetched
cause our town was about midway 
between the USA and what we now 
again call Russia, the USSR 
I was only ten or twelve when this was
going on, and children think like that,
back then, everyone thought like that, 
nuclear obliteration was, or is this still 
the boy in me talking, not inconceivable, 
therefore, like earthquakes on the west 
coast of the Americas, potentially 
the lawn is untended, like our 
neighbours yard back then, I said, 
over the phone, remember, ours was 
always mown, of course, I might’ve 
been doing it, with those cylindrical 
blades before power lawnmowers, 
then again I don’t remember being 
upset by it so maybe my father had 
been taking care of the landscaping,
there had also been hedges 
I don’t remember a fence on the stoop 
at the front door, I don’t remember 
stairs either, for that matter, but that 
was years ago, nor have I since then, 
but briefly, been there 
from the little window at the alcove,
I used to dangle my little sister from
her ankles, suggesting she might 
look into the kitchen to watch my 
grandmother doing dishes
somehow I always got her back up, 
nor did she ever get to see my 
grandmother, she neither her, either 
of which situation could’ve led to 
my dropping my sister onto the 
asphalt, which, in fact, had been, 
while we were kids, installed 
God/dess, I warrant, is merciful, and 
perhaps watches over little children  
then again, children are smart, I 
believe, haven’t lost their instinctive
I knew I wouldn’t drop my sister 
and didn’t
was that coincidence, or the innate 
power of children, to fly, to imagine, 
before it is controlled

Beethoven – piano sonata no.31, op.110 (3rd movement)‏


Woman Reading in a Garden (1902-03)


perhaps my best teacher ever was
my father, others never questioned
the orthodoxy, spewing out the
curriculum like it was sacred, dead,
untouchable, depriving it of its very

my father was a philosopher, God 
was a question, not an answer, I,
at the time, needed an answer
we were sent to a Catholic school,
my sister and I, where God was in 
everything, everywhere, omnipotent,
omniscient, and, like a father then, 
autocratic, industrious, demanding,
not unopposed to punishment
sins against the Father could be 
summarized, at that age, briefly,
do not kill, do not lie, do not 
disobey your parents, do not 
cheat on your husband, wife, 
and follow all the rituals of the 
Church, the Ten Christian 
Commandments, brought to 
you universally then by Charlton 
“Moses” Heston, under the aegis 
none of these graded offences  
applied to me, really, then, but 
lying, and disobeying one’s 
parents, the others were all so 
remote as to be inconsequential, 
though the Church kept up on 
our family’s abrogations of 
religious rites – non-attendance 
at Sunday mass, eating meat 
on Fridays, worse – while 
nevertheless tending dutifully
to our wayward souls, they told 
us, holding out for a final repentant 
we never lied at home, I’d lied about 
something once, and was so daunted
when my father probed, I sweated,
must’ve turned purple, not just red,
of embarrassment, I knew I couldn’t 
use that tactic again, I’d inexorably 
blush, flush
who put the Brylcreem on the dog,
he’d queried
not me, I trembled
my sister stood beside me, might 
not have even known anything 
about it, I can’t remember, though 
I recall her dismay, I think, at having 
been so blithely thrown under the 
bus, or maybe that’s just me 
my dad turned back to what he’d 
been doing, having, I’d understood, 
got his answer, proving himself to 
be to me thereby omniscient, I’d 
have no chance, I gathered, against 
something like that, this turned me 
into a good, an at least conscientious, 
my teachers, paradoxically, only 
ever took marks off for technical 
stuff, Math, History, French, they 
never taught me lessons   
a teacher, once, had asked me to
stand at the head of the class and 
read a passage from Shakespeare,
be Romeo, Mark Antony, Lear, I
can’t remember which
“O, pardon me, thou bleeding 
piece of earth, / That I am meek 
and gentle with these butchers!”,
I uttered, fraught with emotion,
“Thou art the ruins of the noblest 
man / That ever lived in the tide 
of times”
in my mind and in my body I was 
Mark Antony there, shot through 
with the weight of his friend’s 
brutal death, his own irretrievable 
my teacher laughed
what, I asked
you’re right into it, aren’t you, he 
replied, and shut me up right there 
to any public display of expression 
I didn’t stop reading Shakespeare 
though, but by myself
later I read Homer, Ovid, Proust,
others, did the same with music 
and art, made countless lifelong 
friends thereby, people I’ve always 
been able to turn to, even just in 
ruminative thought as their stories 
still pervaded me, diligently leading   
still the way, like guardian angels,