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Friday, January 01, 2021


by John David Muth


Alone for the first time in months, 
I sink into the strings 
of an adagio, 
the final movement 
of Mahler's Ninth. 
I listen to this piece  
on solemn occasions: 
the loss of girlfriends I have loved, 
the death of my mother. 
It grieves for me,  
expresses what I cannot, 
even when I’m by myself. 
How did he feel  
as the subject of a dying empire, 
witnessing a way of life ready to end? 
I am beginning to understand. 
He died three years before the Great War, 
never read of poison gas or barbed wire 
never lived to see Austria crumble 
never saw the bread lines 
of the Great Depression 
the rise of fascism  
the murder of his family and friends. 
Maybe he was lucky. 
The violins wail  
and I think of my country,  
hundreds of thousands dead 
economic collapse 
leaders inept or insane. 
I am almost glad  
those I lost years before 
cannot see what we have become. 
The coda lingers: 
the last complete thoughts 
of a dying man who didn’t want to die. 
Resignation fades to silence 
the old CD stops spinning 
stairs creak from footsteps. 
My wife is back from her walk. 
I hide my red eyes 
in feigned sleep.

John David Muth was born and raised in central New Jersey. He has been an academic advisor at Rutgers University for twenty years. His latest book Dreams of a Viking Wedding (Aldrich Press) was published this year.