The Musical Aphasia of Maurice Ravel

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Amit Majmudar

The Musical Aphasia of Maurice Ravel


      Notes in his ear like motes in his eye,
      His pencil a pin in pursuit of a fly—
      Such were the secrets Maurice Ravel
      In his last lost years was dumb to tell.

      Aphasia, Parisian neurologists said,
      From that taxi crash when you bumped your head.
      The knock will dissolve like the clang from a bell,
      And you’ll be, once again, Maurice Ravel.

      Notes afloat in the fog, in the air,
      Boleros in mind too lively to bear
      Unborn, unwritten, stilled by the spell
      That quelled and ensorceled Maurice Ravel.

      Begetting, forgetting themselves in his brain,
      They were cats, and he patted his lap in vain.
      An audience rose to applaud Ravel.
      The Ravel they beheld was a wraith of himself.

      Dementia, the doctors of Paris opined.
      Old age has unraveled your musical mind.
      The music you hear is the sea in a shell.
      The music you wrote is forever Ravel.

      He went to a surgeon, who would not cut.
      He went to another, who gave a shrug,
      Skeptical whether a scalpel would help
      The music escape its cell in Ravel.

      The roof of the prison was lifted off,
      A bowler of bone incised and doffed.
      With the sound of a radio dropped in a well,
      The last lost works of Maurice Ravel

      Floated aloft in the surgical suite,
      Boleros unbound, too lovely to keep,
      Ravel revealing, in surges and swells,
      An oeuvre unrivalled by early Ravel—

      Nocturnes that added a star to the night,
      Impromptus that luck would be lucky to write
      While his breathing slowed, and heart rate fell,
      Releasing the soul of Maurice Ravel.