After the organ recital last night I get it confirmed again and again – not that I need confirmation, some things you just know beyond codes and logic gates – that Bach is the greatest and most generous of them all. The way he allows you to ride on his cosmic spirals and straight into endlessness is unmatched. At least for me.

These days I think of vastness, and after last night I want to say that whatever we call “it”, it’s vast. The thing about vastness is that it exceeds articulation, which means that you cannot even use clichés to frame it, go against it, or approve it. It’s just there for you to sense and touch without even using a hand.

As if to match my thoughts, a friend of mine sends me her latest collection of poems. Rishma Dunlop, a Canadian writer and professor at York University has just published White Album, in which the poems, also a discographic collection, juxtapose not only sounds, of strength and space, but also images, of lucid ground. The painter Suzanne Northcott contributes a visual counterpoint to each poem. I quote the last one, "Stop-time," which is aligned with the painting called "Evening Fields VI."

Whatever we call “it”, we acknowledge it. We hold its space. We bow to it and love it. And wait.


At times I’ve travelled far from you –
brought to my knees by want
in white rooms in distant cities
and always, music phantoms me –
fevered, carnal –
the rock and roll of my youth,
the blues of Clapton and B.B. King,
the jazz dark and peeling,
Miles and Monk and Billie,
the straight statements of gospel,
Mahalia Jackson’s every note a prayer
that reaches me for brief instants,
after dinner at Frederick’s and Robert’s
where gulls were circling,
seven settings of the sun sliding into English Bay.
I stood under the catalpa tree that sang white blossoms unto my hair
and through my fingers and I was home.
Blackbirds in the milk-blue light before dawn
scoring the silence.
Stop-time on the wet embouchure of a trumpet.
Music waiting in a white room,
white on white playing on
in the rabid world, and I your winter queen, your one and only.

Painting: Suzanne Northcott, Evening Fields VI


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