Music Therapy

posted in: Poetry | 0

The power of melodies, memories and reveries, with poems by Olive Kohl Giese, Kathleen O’Toole, Diana La Com and Allen C. West.
7 minutes


World Music Therapy Day is celebrated every year on March 1. It celebrates the power of music to reduce stress and improve mood and self-expression through listening, singing, playing instruments, or composing music. On this edition of Burning Bright, four poems about the healing power of music.

Olive and Edwin Giese loved ballroom dancing. For their 50th anniversary, she tap-danced in gold lame pants while Ed played drums in a swing band. From Passager’s brand new Winter 2024 issue, here’s Olive Kohl Giese’s poem “The Melody Lingers On.”

There were no blueberries.
A shining gold/blue world surrounded us
as we sat close together
on a rough-hewn cedar fence.
Cows mooed. Breezes blew through our hair.
We sang: “I Got My Thrill on Blueberry Hill.”
Kissing my ear, he set the mood. A musician,
his personality was like his music – upbeat.
During years of Army service, the song was
“This Time the Dream’s on Me.”
On our wedding day, it became,
“It Isn’t A Dream Anymore.”
The babies came. The songs became tender:
“That Little Boy of Mine,”
“Du Bist Mein Kleiner Puppchen,”
“Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” and “Misty,”
“How High the Moon,” as we reached for the stars.
The children left for college and their lives.
We had our “Anniversary Waltz.”
One day he sang, “After the Lovin’,
I’m Still in Love with You.”
Now he’s gone, but in my heart, I sing,
“The Melody Lingers On.”

Olive Kohl Giese’s poem “The Melody Lingers On.”

Kathleen O’Toole said, “All it took was the sight of flower pots on a modest porch in N.E. Washington, to return me to memorable overnights at Granny Madelyn’s bungalow.” From Passager’s 2015 Poetry Contest issue, Kathleen’s poem “Her Bungalow.”

Still redolent of lemon oil and moth balls,
after more than fifty years. Just the sight
of a wrought-iron railed porch hung
with potted plants (hers would have been
plastic) brings back the squeaks and smells,
the knick-knacked world of Granny Madelyn —
shelves of elves and the Infant of Prague,
cut-glass bowls above the faux fireplace,
more ceramic than you’d cast in a lifetime.
And yet for me, those tiny rooms were
incensed chapel, sweat lodge. Within them
my half-hillbilly, railroad widow granny
reigned. She dried her support hose
on the metal spokes of the laundry tree above
the forced hot air vent in the floor. Her wages
at the “five & dime,” that bought me 45RPM
American Bandstand hits and popsicles, could barely
afford more. As her eldest grandchild,
just the chance to spend the night on her side
of the tracks was whimsical: I could pray
my heart out on the glow-in-the-dark rosary,
listen to Hank Williams by the Blessed Mother
night light, wind its music box to play
Schubert’s Ave, or watch Bonanza
on the black and white TV. For breakfast
at the Formica table you could choose
what you wanted to eat of what she had.
My favorite: half a tomato and a Coke.
409 Holloway Terrace — address
of memory, whispers a wish to find
again such unfeigned grace.

“Her Bungalow,” Kathleen O’Toole.

Next, from Passager’s Winter 2013 issue, Diana La Com’s “The Day of the Singing.”

She sang, a humming, as of a million bees.
Soon came melody, soft like a nimbus.
Trees and grass grew silent.
Birds ceased their chatter.

She sang, her voice from distant memory
spreading over the land
like a cloud or a silken fog.
People stopped in mid-sentence.
Teachers put down their chalk.
Builders their hammers and drills.
Travelers forgot where they were going.
The market place was silent;
people lined the sidewalks, listening.
All was silent except for the singing.

She sang, and it grew louder,
surrounding the towns,
songs they knew, songs they had forgotten.

She sang and it grew louder and louder still,
like a howl like the hooves of wild horses.
Still she sang, until walls began to crumble and collapse,

and she fell
softly, like a canyon wren.

People then silently began to return to the rubble
of shops, of houses, fields, factories, weapons — stones.

On occasion a few stop and say to each other . . .
Remember the singing?

“Day of The Singing,” Diana La Com. Diana said that many of her poems grow out of dreams. She said, “I write the dreams down and then begin to work with them to find what they have to say.”

Allen C. West said that this next poem began with free associating. “Dancing while Sweeping.”

Surreal comes tonight
      in the eyes of a cat
            and the broom’s used beauty

Without white tie
      or tails      I am
            Fred Astaire naked

      as lonely
            as Polaris immobile

sing La Paloma
      drape on the broom
            her lavender robe

one sleeve lifted high
      one over my shoulders
            Arpege-scented silk

clings      never missing
      a beat      holds me
            my need to be

held      Our dipping
      and turning shape
            circles and gyres

embracing my heaven
      of table lamps
            floor lamps

enchanting our tango
      The wide-open back door
            welcomes our dust

From Passager’s 2010 Poetry Contest issue, Allen C. West’s “Dancing while Sweeping.”

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For Kendra, Mary, Christine, Rosanne, and the rest of the Passager staff, I’m Jon Shorr.

Due to the limitations of online publishing, poems may not appear in their original formatting.