Harmonie du Soir Poem

Harmonie du Soir Poem By Stephen Yenser

That ever younger evening sky’s pastel accord’s
A chord off Santa Monica
Even now, deepening shades of past
Shadings, jazzy, night jasmine’s pungent fadings
In up from the Blue Virgin’s blue
Through blues as interfused as tones in a harmonica
To cobalt blue, to coalfire blue, to Coltrane blue,

Smoky and chuffing, to blooming lavender of jacaranda
Flowers that fail, that fall across lanai, gazebo, and veranda,
Those years before your birth.
A Santa Ana blew…
The stars came out…kept coming out…
Above the dimming earth…
On stage…

The vibraphone solo in “The ‘Original’ Stardust”:
As cocky as cocaine, with each angelic line
Struck off in its constellation,
And then snuffed out, as fine as that cocaine
They use to stanch the pain
Before they break a nose to fix
A broken nose, melody racing out in front, looping around
The orchestra—foxy, teasing, balletic—

Until it’s clear that it could go
On forever and so starts
Stopping, begins to
Skip like a heart, or to limp
Like Mother Killdeer in disguise,

To double-hitch down to a kind of foxtrot,
Hunted, haunted, caught,
Danced with by the whole libidinous band
An endless moment, then abandoned,
As it must be, like Valéry’s pure poem,
A little lion, or unicorn, until the phallic horn
Flares up like sunset,

Ever so sweetly, compliantly, discretely,
Each gold and gilded sound well worth its silent wait,
To blow the by-then barely, still hardly
Flaming foxbreath out.
There, now: play it at the wake,
From flashes to ashes, dusk to dust,

As though in time with sacring bells and censers swinging—
“Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air du soir,”
Dans le beau de l’air du soir…
That’s how I’d like to leave you when I must.

Stephen Yenser
first published in The Yale Review, vol. 87, no. 3, July 1999

Harmonie du Soir Poem

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