To You

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The barrier that can’t be scaled,
The wall that’s never coming down;
The distance that’s too far to cross,
The adjective that has no noun

The meaning that no word entails,
The cooling breeze that leaves a burn —
The desperate love I feel for you
That you won’t know, and can’t return.

The field of empty lullabies,
The children we could never share;
The heart, rejoicing as it dies,
The you that I see everywhere

The smile upon your winning face,
Your open heart, ethereal —
The desperate love I feel for you
That you don’t share and cannot feel.

A dream, remaindered for a pence,
A selling cheap, and bargain made;
The friendly look you cast my way
As I repaint what I’ve portrayed

The spring, the harvest, and the grain –
The death of all expectancy —
The desperate love I have for you
That you could never have
For me

Everything… and Nothing

It was only three weeks, but he was absolutely in love. Love, however, doesn’t always flow both ways.

It had been a late April day when he was stopped after class by one of his professors and told he was needed as an emergency replacement to accompany a flutist at her upcoming senior recital. Her regular accompanist had broken a wrist. So, he showed up at practice room 141 at 5:00 that evening.

He recognized her as a girl who had been in his Advanced Music Theory class the year before, but who never spoke in class. They shook hands, and she said, “Hi. I’m Sarah.”

He introduced himself as well.

“I don’t know if they told you, but, you’re the third replacement accompanist I’ve auditioned in the last three days. The others didn’t really work out.”

I see, he said.

“Well, let’s get to it. Let’s try this,” she said, handing him sheet music. “This is what I’ll be opening with.”

The music was unfamiliar to him, it was a Sonatine by Walter Gieseking, who he knew as a great pianist of yesteryear, but who he didn’t realize had also been a composer. He looked through it, page by page, then turned back to the first page.

How fast? Or do you like to count in? he asked.

“Just watch me and follow,” she said, which was singularly unhelpful.

She picked up her flute and caught his eye, then nodded her head, and they started.


It’s hard to explain conservatory life to people who’ve never experienced it. You have young artists, burning with the desire to express their individuality, but doing so within the heavily constrained world of classical music, where individuality can be a matter of extreme subtlety. Envy is endemic, competition is fierce, and snark is served up with ever meal.

One way of standing out is to write your own music; unless you are Prokofiev, this is extremely hard to pull off. Another way is to perform little known repertoire, which helps you stand out. This was her way.

To him, their practice sessions were magical; they built cities out of music together. He loved the music first, but gradually realized that he loved her. She was completely devoted to her craft. She expressed herself through it. And he saw her, truly saw and heard her.

But to her, he was just some guy, a guy who would either accompany her perfectly or screw up her senior recital. She didn’t really see him — at all. Not once.

When the performance came, it was just like practice had been. They were one person when it came to performing, and he felt it. And the audience felt it. It was electric.

And, to him, it was even more.

But something can be everything, and the next moment, be nothing. She checked off the box of a successful senior recital, acknowledged the applause, performed the ritual of acknowledging her accompanist, smiled in the moment, then left the stage.

And just like that, she was gone, and she never gave him three seconds thought again.

He gathered up his sheet music as the house lights came up and to the sounds of the audience milling about. It was an oddly empty feeling.

That love can be unrequited is well known; that it is almost always unrequited is less known. That the person loved never even knows it happens all around us, everyday. There’s a fair chance it has happened to you, and you never noticed.

For one person’s everything is another person’s nothing.

Enemy’s Border

He loved her with a desperate hope.

image

He loved her with a desperate hope
That made of him a mess —
He looked for every little sign;
She could not have cared less.

His dreams beset him in the night,
He’d win, whate’er the cost:
He told her how their life would go,
She told him to
Get lost

Old Song Lyrics, Age 24

Reaching out for someone who’s not there,
Walking down a path for two, alone;
Trying to make some sense out of it all,
Trying to make some happy thoughts a home.

Looking out across the lonely way,
Hearing waves that echo out your name,
I will dream again tonight, I guess,
But I’ll wake and find the world the same.

And all you are’s reflections
In the water,
Here and gone,
And never mine to touch;
All you are’s just sparkles
On the ocean,
Illusions that I think about
Too much.

Built a fire to regret this evening,
Watched the moths come round, and some get burned;
I guess there’s a lesson in there, somewhere,
But it’s not one, that I’ve really learned.

And all you are’s reflections
In the water,
Here and gone,
And never mine to touch;
All you are’s just sparkles
On the ocean,
Illusions that I think about
Too much.

And all you are’s reflections
In the water,
Silver light
That’s never mine to touch;
All you are’s just images
Enticing,
Illusion that I think about
Too much.

An unreal thing
I think about
Too much

Morning Watch

She keeps up her faithful morning watch
To see if things get better;
A cup of hot coffee, a favorite book
Whose words have often fed her —

She dreams of a life that is far away,
Where troubles don’t beset her:
And she would put him in another’s thoughts
If her own heart
Would let her

I Know You Love Her…

I know you love her, I have seen your eyes.
I’ve felt the fading hope you keep alight:
The comfort and nobility you prize,
The wrongful longing you know you’d make right —

For guys, we know each other’s secret ways,
And well I know the unrequited game:
The agony of longing through the days,
And nights of dreaming, hearing your own name,

As spoken by that voice you know so well.
I know you love her, but that you despair:
For what you feel, you may, or may not tell,
But it won’t move her, any time, or where.

Like perfect grapes you look on and repine,
Full knowing you will never taste
The wine