Ron Slate

The Death of Erik Satie
November 14, 2011 Slate Ron

The Death of Erik Satie


The arches aspire to points
in the church of childhood,
a single note here and here and here.
Drafty gothic undertones, the grandiose
obscurity of the modern mind.

Cirrhosis, then pleurisy.
Hours waiting in stillness,
as in an empty cabaret.

A bell tinkles in the corridor, the viaticum
drifts toward the dying man next door.
Something long ago made the world
hostile.  So of course one mocks
a style no longer exploitable.

Conversation with the nuns —
You understand, the Creator
commits technical errors, he keeps us
at arm’s length, his soiled cuff
fills us with medieval joy.

The patient rebuffs Poulenc and Ravel –
but admits Braque, Brancusi, Stravinsky,
stand there and there and there.
There is nothing left to renounce.

Choirs, music hall songs, then through the war
anyone could witness the decline.
Curses for the idiots — Mon Cher Directeur,
you are brutal, inhospitable, you are under arrest.
The Pope is excommunicated!  Monsieur et cher ami,
vous n’êtes qu’un cul, mais un cul
sans musique.  One must reject the obvious.

Final years, cognac and beer,
then home to a dusty room with a depleted piano,
desolate possessions, scores inscribed
affectionately by Debussy, before the feud.

Franc notes poke from the pages
of books, advance payment for impossible music.
The rolled umbrella clutched more tightly.

A filament of notes,
each one intended.  Something long ago
created this secret sorrow.  Erik Satie dies
at the Hôpital Saint-Joseph.


Ron Slate is the editor and publisher of On The Seawall: A Community Gallery of New Writing and Commentary at His poetry collections are The Incentive of the Maggot and The Great Wave.