1. Amen of the Creation
On the snow-white pages
Fingers bleed with cold,
Frozen in the ages,
Struggling to take hold
Of worlds whited-out
By the stage’s silent throats,
Paralyzed by doubt
And disappearing notes,
Picks scratching in the night
Of a chasm’s hieroglyphics,
Suspended thinly on the height
Of illusory specifics
Left behind like skins
To illuminate the keys
With discarded fashions
And long-dead galaxies.
This came from the concept of my fictional pianist, lost
in the Himalayas, his fingers bleeding from the cold and
climbing. I’ve been there twice, and played a concert
in Kathmandu back in 1964. I did the yeti films in the
Chugach as a lazy substitute for part of that experience.
Beckett said that the characters of Proust are like giants
buried in the ages, touching the past and the future at the
The poem is a metaphor for writing, especially in the
disappearing ink of altitude, where you can’t remember
anything once you’re above 18,000 feet and without oxygen.
“Metaphor” is Greek for transcription, translation.
Every pianist has been horrified by the Harvey Keitel
character in the film Fingers, playing Bach’s E Minor
Toccata, his fingers bleeding on the keys.
The high priestly language of Egyptian hieroglyphics
was probably chanted or sung.
Every concert pianist worries that the hieroglyphics of
music, what T. S. Eliot called “the inexplicable mysteries
of sound,” are koans, paeans, runes out of forgotten cultures
that can only be partly absorbed, at best, by a modern