Brian Culhane

The Immortality Ode
April 23, 2019 Culhane Brian


Bill Evans is quiet, fingers still above the keys,
But ready to begin again and again and again
The first twelve bars before the drums come in,
Just as I am ready for inspiration this evening,
Fingers rehearsing an entrance above the keyboard
Of the Olivetti Lettera 32 I pounded years ago
On Charles Street, nights I wore my father’s
Black cashmere overcoat whenever the steam
Failed to make it up five flights, and back then
Evans waited, too, for his entrance, rain on glass
Waiting to accompany him, and on the B side?
Everlastingness is still there, and all Camus
Said it was, the boulder, the hill, the boulder again
That we come to over and over, pushing—
Quaquaquaqua with white beard quaquaquaqua
As Lucky said and which my annotated Beckett
Traces to the Latin (qua) for in the capacity of.
As in I qua Sisyphus, I quaquaquaqua greybeard
Old father shuffling along in black cashmere:
The Child is father of the Man, a looped immortality,
While happiness, per Camus, if patently absurd,
Nonetheless may rise with the struggle to old heights
And just might be enough to fill a man’s heart,
Even as Evans once more lifts his fingers for
“You and the Night and the Music,” his solo fresh
As when he first sat down, and the night is young.

Brian Culhane’s poetry has appeared widely in such journals as Blackbird, The Cincinnati ReviewThe Hudson Review, and The Paris Review. Awarded the Poetry Foundation’s Emily Dickinson Prize, his first book, The King’s Question, was published by Graywolf Press. He’s received fellowships from Washington State’s Artist Trust, MacDowell, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. His second collection, Remembering Lethe, was published by Able Muse Press in 2021 and reviewed by Chelsea Wagenaar in Issue 127  of Plume.