The View From Straw’s

South Hill Farm 4

Here, two fluttering counties are taking a wink,
up amphitheaters, right and left,
bending over hillocks into empty air,
rope-walking birds skim past beneath.

The woods run down below,
across creek lines,
slithering like snakes, hobo blankets
molting onto brown remembrances,
against the powers of hayfield and wood.
The gypsy moth has crept with needlesome jaw
across the green world fading like a scrim.

Murder hides behind our little tract,
he’s a bony devil, knuckle lumps
rapping his frying pan, while underneath,
the crack of terror burns.

Up country the furious beasts of pandemonium
wildly devour each others tails,
and seesaws rise and fall across Galactic gulfs,
a bucket of water rises in the Malacca Strait,
upping the level in Chile, and spattering on our shore.

But for the moment, our premiums’ paid,
we hang transfixed up the tattered air
where merely to sleep and wake is to walk through miracles.
Higher than eagles, here comes luck.
Making a bargain with the hungry firmament.

© Andrew Glaze 2015, from his book Overheard in a Drugstore

In the late 1970’s — 90’s, our family getaway consisted of eleven acres of grassy hillside in Pine Plains, New York. Two hours north of Manhattan, on the border of Duchess and Columbia Counties, the back-to-nature lifestyle there provided a Henri David Thoreau style experience that we enjoyed for its peace and simplicity.   After a year or two of tent camping, we purchased four 10’ x 10’ wooden cabins from a defunct children’s camp. One was to be used for spare parts, two were for my parents, and one belonged to me and was set apart from the others.  As soon as the cabins were delivered by flatbed truck and mounted on cinder blocks, my father showed me how to replace a roof, door, an entire window, and glass panes. He’d learned these skills back in the early 1950’s. (To learn more about that, read the poem “Bill Where Are You?”).

 Happy in our simple cabins, free of electricity, plumbing, and phones, we gradually added a metal tool shed, a pavilion of slender tree-trunks topped by fiberglass roof panels to shelter our picnic table, a rock walled outdoor grill, and a free standing outdoor sink that drained through a hose into the ground. My father liked to joke that he planned to write a book on “Chainsaw Carpentry”, and became quite creative at it.

 In his 2002 book Remembering Thunder, my father named one of the chapters “Stissing’s Children”.  This was because Mount Stissing was the highest point around Pine Plains and we could see the top of it from our property. The simple fact that the first poem in that chapter is titled “Thoreau Again” explains my father’s viewpoint.  Southhill Farm became a retreat where he happily worked on his poetry, tried organic gardening, literally “primed the pump” before drawing water, listened to Mets baseball games over a battery powered radio, watched star formations at night in complete darkness, and invited favorite neighbors to join us at our picnic table for a glass of wine with grilled steak, corn on the cob, and vegetables from the garden. Eventually, my parents insulated their main cabin and added a wood burning stove to it.  After that, they were able to stay longer in the fall, and visit earlier in the spring.

When the time came to install a manual water pump, we discovered that the local Water Douser / Deviner was recommended as the starting point.  He arrived for the appointment looking as normal as my grandfather, pulled out a V-shaped tree branch, held one end in each hand, pointed it towards the sky, and started roaming the property. When water was near, the branch would fight his efforts to keep it pointing upwards and twist itself downwards. “That one’s about 15 yards underground” he’d pronounce, “Now let’s see where another one crosses it, to increase the volume”. At least once, he had to cut a new tree branch because the old one had wrestled itself into shreds. After his departure, each of us cut a V-shaped tree branch and wandered the property hoping to discover we had untapped skills for dousing.  I concluded I had potential.

The acreage behind our land was the fly in the balm of our peaceful existence. The owners were year round residents who enjoyed hunting, with a son who’d drive a noisy all-terrain-vehicle into their back woods to shoot target practice. The foothills around us would reverberate the gun shots like a timpani drum at Carnegie Hall. My softhearted parents immediately nailed “No Hunting, Private Property” signs all around our borders.  Bambi and his friends ate our flowers, vegetables, fruit from our trees, and were undeterred by organic efforts to discourage them, but we still loved them.

Straw and Debbie were a young creative couple from Manhattan with a property uphill from ours. Everybody enjoyed Straw’s goofball personality, and Debbie was happy to join the ride. They also had cabins and placed them at the highest point on their hill with a view overlooking the countryside. I remember they had something to do with film production and eventually decided California was the place to be. With that goal, one day they said their goodbyes, and headed West.  Only problem was, their overloaded truck soon began strewing belongings like breadcrumbs for Hansel and Gretel. They stopped, regrouped, and finally continued on their merry way.  Afterwards, Straw called one of our neighbors to give him an update on their misadventures.  Word passed down the grapevine and everybody agreed, “Sounds just like something that would happen to Straw”.  He and Debbie promptly became local legends, and we never saw them again.

By the late ‘80’s my parents had moved to Miami and the trek to upstate New York became a very long one.  By the mid-90’s my brother and I both had children and lived in Pennsylvania.  We brought them with us to Southhill Farm several times to share the experience we’d always enjoyed.  My daughter now says I referred to Pine Plains as “The Country” so often that she thought that was the name of the town. Eventually though, it became too much for all of us to make the long drive to get there. My parents were growing older, and so were my brother and I.  The property was eventually sold, but I know the times he spent at Southhill Farm were some of the happiest of my father’s life.  At times I yearn for the simplicity of those days, remember a lilac tree I started from a single branch that was huge by the time we left, and ponder whether the town still has just one traffic light. My father preserved his memories as poems. I chose to preserve mine as photographs.

—E. Glaze

Southhill farm 3
Planting a fruit tree.
Southhill farm 4Behind our cabins. Andrew and Adriana Glaze in the foreground. The organic garden is on the right, with grape vines along the fence.

Southhill farm 7
Our campsite grew more sophisticated every year.  Adriana is standing by the “sink”.

Southhill farm 8
Reading a book.   On the right is our “icebox”. Behind my father, lying on the ground, are the boards that were used to create the pavilion roof shown in the previous photos.

Southhill Farm April 1986
Writing.
Sothhill farm 10
Napping.
Southhill farm 8
My brother (standing) and stepmom (sitting), before we had cabins at the bottom of the hill.
Southhill farm
And I became the queen of collecting wild flowers.

All photos are the property of Elizabeth Glaze and the Andrew Glaze Estate..

Sunset Rock

                                         ”Said Billy Rose to Sally Rand’’

Father Sun is just settled down in a red haze
up the farthest slope of the  Ramapos, when suddenly out
from   the dusk with a rushing and a tinkling,
we’re  assailed by spectral shadows. They swirl our way
down through the sun-careening fire-dazzled woods.

They’re the show girls, draped in Jean Harlow  dresses
scissored down to the buttock-nape.
They shriek tinnily in high double heels, giggling and slipping
on shiny Phillipine grass, they spill their  bathtub gin
and stand for a moment , lifting their glasses
to toast the sun’s wild footlights off to the West.

They’ve tittered like ghosts down from Billy Rose’s house
on the rise behind, with its English windows and grey slate roof,
its paneled jazz-age rooms.
By the old liquor closet at the unused central flue,
you can almost hear the Volstead dicks come ghosting up the drive,
with a wail, from Wampus Pond and Armonk, down below.

They’ve come, with a great scattering and screeching and to do,
draining the bathtubs, the ghostly Vermouth and Juniper juice,
pouring it out among the actual roots
of the memory trees, where they soar
skyward, like the joyous dream of a lark.

None of them glows in the effulgent sunset
or lays out what blazing road goes by, opens a ghostly door
or fades the light down silent driveways of the imagination.
They are frolicking, a thing and a place where we can never be or go.
Salute their voyage!

© 2015 Andrew Glaze, from the book Overheard In A Drugstore

There is a school-yard style poem about burlesque dancer Sally Rand and Broadway Producer Billy Rose, which, when read aloud correctly, is obscene.  I had completely forgotten the ditty until I looked up Sally Rand on the internet and rediscovered it.  Afterwards, I remembered that when I was a teen, the topic of Sally Rand came up one day and my father recited it in amusement. Sally Rand and Billy Rose have long since left this world, but the poem remains.

Said Billy Rose to Sally Rand,
“Do your dance without your fan!”
She did her dance without her fan;
Billy “rose” — and Sally ran!

In reality, Billy Rose didn’t just have a house, he had a giant mansion known as “Rose Hill” in Mount Kisco, just outside of Manhattan in Westchester County, New York.  Built in 1928, right in the middle of prohibition, chances are great that they really did have bathtub gin parties.  “Volstead Dicks” is a reference to the detectives responsible for enforcing the “Volstead Act”  that made alcohol illegal between 1919 — 1933.

Rose had several wives, one of whom was the famous comedienne Fanny Brice.  A composer of more than 400 songs, at least 50 of which were huge hits, including, “Me and my shadow”, and “It’s only a paper moon”, Rose became an impresario, producing shows for both stage and screen.  In 1936, he produced, Sally Rand’s Nude Ranch” at the 1936 Fort Worth Centennial as part of his Casa Manana show at the fairgrounds.  She was best known for her burlesque routines using giant feather fans to artfully peek-a-boo her way through sensual dances. 

I’m not sure what inspired my father to come up with the poem.  My stepmom and I have not been able to remember anytime when he saw the house in person, but it’s possible we just weren’t there at the time.  Or, perhaps he read an article about it somewhere.  There was an enormous fire at Rose Hill in 1956, but the mansion was rebuilt afterwards.  It wasn’t until 2019 that another fire completely destroyed it.  At this very moment, you can go on-line and purchase undamaged stained glass windows and a stone fireplace that remained.  Billy Rose passed away in 1966, but a new replica of Rose Hill is currently in the process of being built. Clearly, the public is reluctant to let it slip away and vanish.  I like to think that it’s because they enjoy envisioning the same ghosts that my father imagined. 

….”Salute their voyage” indeed.

—–E. Glaze

Sally Rand
Sally Rand in one of her feathered burlesque costumes.

Billy Roses home facade
The facade of Billy Rose’s home in Mt. Kisco, NY, “Rose Hill”.  A birds eye view revealed the full extent of the size, which consisted of extended wings behind the front of the building.

Billy Rose residence interior
Historically, the word “flue” means the chimney itself.  This is a photograph of a room in Billy Rose house.  To quote my father’s words, “Paneled jazz-age rooms.
By the old liquor closet at the unused central flue”.  Currently, if you have a yen to share history, you can buy the entire mantel for $25,000.

BLUE RIDGE

—–A Lament

It’s the best road between truckways climbing into miles,
and here come Buckthorn, Hemlock, Mountain Laurel, Rhododendron,
shotgunning everywhere, into light and dark,
our motors’ let-up punctuated with red-eyed-
Vireos, Summer Tanagers, warblers,
the occasional ghost of a raven.

Far below, tractors pull, pickups scurry,
and blue smoke rises from verandahed motels,
hot instant chicken, bible colleges, refineries,
and suburbs. At the other verge,
eerily coming off the blind side uphill, flow boundless forests,
and endless divisions of blue-grey butternut armies.

Racketing with fierce crashes of musketry,
they clatter behind risings, dashing across
bare hills in patterns of horses.
Tiny caissons crawl, shuddering past,
bent with piles of the bloody wounded and dead,
creaking to the bullet-shattered gossamer whinings of fife.

It’s a vision of the kingdom we come from,
the republic we have been setting out for,
two ghostly realms divided
by a mystic ridge running along between
two terrible fates, like a double brink.

What does it want from us? Pointless to weep.
Pointless to blame. The vision clears, rises
like wood-smoke, and does not disband.
Still it’s there, awaiting, as we enter the machine again,
and move off through leaf-doors and walls of shadow play.

© 2015 Andrew Glaze, from the book Overheard In A Drugstore

My father was very familiar with Route 81. The most direct highway between New York State and Alabama, the highway is paralleled by the Blue Ridge Mountains to the East and the Appalachians to the West.  The crest of the Blue Ridge Mountain Range has a road called “Skyline Drive” which is well known for both it’s beautiful views and the fact that it overlooks sites where six major Civil War battles took place in Virginia during the “1862 Valley Campaign”.

The Civil War between the Northern and Southern states is part of our family heritage.  We were on the defeated rebel side. Despite that historic loss, memoirs, antiques, ancestral photos, and pride in that history, abound throughout my family tree.  So when, in the late ’60’s, a newly published photographic history of the Civil War arrived in the mail, my father pored over it with great interest.  It was the first time he’d seen photographic evidence of the darker side, and featured black and white pictures of starving prisoners of war, piles of dead bodies, graphic photos of the wounded, and survivors with missing limbs. 

After he and my stepmom moved from Manhattan to Birmingham in 2002, they made an annual summer trek to rural property we owned in Pine Plains, New York.  When they decided to visit Skyline Drive during one of those trips, he remembered those photos, and became inspired by the contrast of beautiful views and Civil War battle descriptions.  The end result was this poem.

—E. Glaze

skyline drive photo
Skyline Drive at the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in Virginia.  The Shenandoah Valley is below. The valley was the site of 6 major battles during the Civil War.

George Washington’s Mud

geo-washington-portrait2

It’s a great comfort to know this country had a father
and that he was as crazy as my father.
That with a presumption of faultless logic
he was able to get involved in a lifelong attachment to that Potomac mud
trapped in the horseshoe bayous around his farm.

Damn it, he thought (I presume), his fields could feed on that thick black
almost edible slime!  And like the rest of us easy-to-humbug men
he thought anything he was able to reason out
was possible. A most endearing fallacy like any number of mine.

Up in his workshop he contrived a machine
for making the river move-to float out the gravel
and leave the dirt. But he was as pragmatic as he was visionary.
While reason plotted, he worked a crew of slaves
in a sort of holy war on behalf of the land.

Of course he was always just about to be almost finished (and happy)
till he caught the pleurisy that made him a finished monument.
The congressmen swarmed in out of the patronage lines
preparing posthumous lies to be brought out
about the honors, etc., appointments, the general had or should have confirmed.

And they came trotting over when he seemed about to speak, saying “any advice for the nation sire?” not wanting any, really
but willing to listen to the man.
Well, he sat up of course and made the fools get out of his way like flies.
His last anger went off like a cannon.
It burst with a splash above the river bank.

“Look at that, gentlemen! –Look at that glorious mud!
That’s what life is about, that mud!
And I shall get my hands on it, or perish!”
Which brought on a fatal convulsion and perfected his vow.
So he had a good death, happy, involved,
convinced he had just been washed by the logic of his century
to a glorious death in the battles of tides and erosions and rivers.

©  1966 by Andrew Glaze, from his book “Damned Ugly Children”.

I have no idea how my father learned about George Washington’s flirtations with collecting mud from the Potomac River.  Apparently, Washington’s fascination began with an invention titled “The Hippopotamus”, which was invented by a Mr. Donaldson. According to the Mount Vernon website, Washington loved the concept, and there was a flurry of correspondence with Mr. Douglas, but he never actually purchased the contraption.  Instead, he did his own experiments of ways to bring mud up from the Potomac River to his farm fields.
—–E. Glaze
The machine created by Mr. Douglas is shown below.
Hippo-crop invention
“The Hippopotamus”, an invention by Mr. Douglas.  It was used to bring river bed mud up from the river to fertilize farm fields.  I believe the drawing shows a view from the air.

LOVE

Hearts

Sometime, along the way,

though love poems may flap and squawk, then escape,

along in years, with luck,

the ghost of one, somehow may come skittering back.

Liquid as mist, its phantom will rise,

the stinks you’ve remembered as bitter

will be dried and perfumed like wild grass.

 

Long forgotten names and places

will ache to come spilling out

and the hosts of oblivion once more will speak.

Old songs will mutter themselves into life

remembering dreams, and when that time awakens,

 

you’ll come to swear to yourself

that something has shifted weight

at the earth’s center.

While the harmony lasts

what you dream you will seem to touch,

what evanesces will seem to endure forever

 

Though it takes life for only a moment or so,

as it awakes from its wraithy home

you’ll once more shudder and sing,

and out of its  ghostly enchanted world,

remember the miracle of speech.
Copyright Andrew Glaze 2015, from Overheard In A Drugstore

This was originally included in a 1973 love poem anthology titled Loves, Etc. from Doubleday Press.  Surprisingly, it didn’t appear in any of my father’s own books until 2015.  The earlier anthology of love poems was compiled by my father’s friend Marguerite Harris.  “Maggie” was the only poet/Ad photography model I’ve ever met.  Her photo career began when she accompanied her daughter to a modeling agency, only to be told that the agency wanted to sign her instead. Far from a glamorous fashion type, they viewed her as the perfect motherly, grandmotherly type. When I was 17, my father pointed to a subway poster of a white haired lady sitting in a rowboat with a parasol. “That’s Maggie” he said. Even at my age I could appreciate the photographic evidence that adventures and opportunities did not end after a persons hair turned white.

 As for the poem, there are probably many possible interpretations for it.  I feel it’s about the ability of the human heart and mind to recover from disappointments, appreciate the good times by re-framing the memories, and find love again.

This was certainly true of my father and the three romantic loves of his life.
The first was Linda Allardt, to whom he was briefly engaged when they met at the 1948 Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference. She was very young, and their long distance engagement was brief, but he never forgot her.  They got back in touch in the ’70’s, when Linda discovered her neighbor had a good friend in Birmingham. The friend turned out to be my aunt.  From that point on my father and Linda maintained a supportive long distance poetry exchange. Eventually, he dedicated a book to her, and she dedicated a book or two to him; the most recent being a 2016 collection titled Under Construction. That love was one of a shared interest in poetry and memories of youth.

Next was my mother, Dorothy, who was ten years younger and broke his heart when she asked for a divorce after eleven years together. Forced to continue the relationship for the sake of myself and my brother, he managed to look kindly upon her, and shift gears into a love of shared children and mutual past experiences.

Lastly was my stepmom, “Cusi”, who spent 53 years of marriage with him, helped raise my brother and I, and loyally looked after him until the end of his life. Theirs was a loving relationship based on mutual interest in the arts, dance, books, murder mysteries, medical and legal TV dramas, theater, music, and periodic weeks of cabin camping in upstate New York. He dedicated two of his books to Cusi, and wrote one of his best poems for her. (You can read “You and I Make A Movie” in an earlier blog).

—E. Glaze

Chocolate Pie

Fred’s great chocolate pie
sat on the table at noon–
while outside the Spring sun dazzled, leapt,
and the Germans marched into Austria.

On the radio came shouts, in a hoarse, hysterical voice,
the future jangled their wits like a telephone.
Our appointed war was waiting for us outside, cocking its thumb.

“Arma virumque cano,” says Virgil,
Dr. Cutt snakes out the words with a dry, ironic, bite,
saying, “This is the war
your generation is set up to perish for,
because my own was an idiot,
and savors itself with the gruel of madness.

The legend says
if you must plant hatred, stay on guard
and lop the heads off the warriors
springing from the ground.
Do it again and again!
But this time, for a change, stay home.”

It was certainly not for lack of battlegrounds.
We’ve plenty of those at hand.
Not ten miles away, at Stones River,
Generals Rosecrans and Bragg
waltzed one another a half turn
about the Murfreesboro Pike.
You can picnic among the twenty five thousand dead.

At Spring Hill, Patrick Cleburne, “bravest of the brave”
let Schofield’s Yankees slip through.
And the next day, under the scatter-shot of John Hood’s rage
he charged himself to death with five other rebel generals.
They lay in a row on the Carlton House porch
fury assuaged.

Down the Nashville Pike came
General Thomas racketing through,
flogging his horse,
yelling across the clatter
‘Didn’t we drive ’em though? Didn’t we drive ’em!”
And Forrest’s horse lagged to guard the retreat.

Grandpa lived in the saddle for days
near the Surgeon’s wagon taking out his surgical kit
to patch the few come out alive,
subsiding into Alabama.

That, was our war.
What did we know about motorized guns on wheels,
or hawks-foot bombers diving out of the sun?

© Andrew Glaze 2015, from Overheard In A Drugstore

 WW2 Air pilot song:
“I wanted wings, ‘til I got the god damn things,
now I don’t want them anymore.
They say air combats called romance, but it makes me wet my pants,
I’m not a fighter I have learned.
For I’d rather be a bellhop
than a flyer on a flattop
with my hand around a bottle
not around a goddamned throttle,
Buster, I wanted wings ‘til I go the god damn things,
now I don’t want them anymore.”

Despite being a non-flying Communications Officer with the Army Air Corps, my father had this catchy WW2 song embedded in his brain for the rest of his life. The version above is the one he occasionally sang when I was growing up.

During the war, he was assigned to the air base on Anglesey Island, a rural island off the coast of North Wales in the UK.  Far from the battles in Europe, he found life there quite boring, and wished he were closer to the action. Only later did he realize how lucky he’d been. My father was not fond of his military experience, and resisted taking advantage of any of the benefits offered to Veterans. Ironically, 60+ years after his island experience, Prince William and Kate Middleton moved to Anglesey as newlyweds when William began work at the same air base as a Search and Rescue Helicopter Pilot for the Royal Air Force.  I think the slow pace was exactly the break from royal life that they’d both hoped for and they stayed for 3 cherished years.

In case you haven’t figured it out, this poem is written from the perspective of my father in his late teens when he was a High School student at The Webb School in Tennessee. A prep-boarding school for boys that was 53 miles South of Nashville, my father loved his time there because, “they encouraged independence and had an honor system, which was unlike any other school at that time”.  His teacher, Dr. Cutt, clearly made a positive impression. Recently, I came across an on-line memo about the history of the Webb School Language Department. It said, Dr. Cutt, taught 4th Latin – Virgil, 6 or 8 students.” It also states that he taught Greek.  Somehow, even in his wildest dreams. I doubt that Dr. Cutt ever expected to be immortalized, quoting Virgil, in a future poem by one of his students.  And yet here he is doing exactly that. The advice to “stay home this time”, is probably accurate . My father had a habit of stockpiling verbal nuggets in his brain for future use.

Career-wise, Latin proved to be useful, both for my father’s writing, and to accomplish his translations of Spanish poets like Pablo Neruda. However, on the family side, there was one aspect of his Latin training that drove my brother and I crazy.  We had the same problem with our mother, because she also studied Latin in High School. It started when we became old enough to enjoy playing the game “Dictionary”. In order to do so, one person has to select a word nobody else knows the meaning of, while everyone else invents a definition to fool the other players. Our problem was that 95% of the time, our parents used Latin derivations to figure out the words we suggested and it usually took 10 minutes to find an unfamiliar option.  My brother eventually solved the problem with a book titled Obscure, Unusual and Preposterous Words, and even that wasn’t 100% perfect.  It’s worth noting that, when playing Dictionary, my brother’s goal was never to make up realistic sounding meanings for the dictionary words and score points.  He inherited our father’s sense of the ridiculous and just wanted to make everybody laugh. I still remember an afternoon when the two of us played Dictionary with friends, and my brother’s definition of Polyarchy was, “The arc formed by a parrot when thrown from a bridge in Mandarin China.”

His time at boarding school seems to have given our father a keen understanding of where major battles took place in the area.  His parents were from Elkton and Pulaski, which are slightly to the West of Nashville. At the time of the Civil War, it’s hard to know if the Glaze family agreed with the rebel cause or not, but given their geographic location and the fact that skirmishes were taking place all around them, abstaining wasn’t much of an option.  At the time the war broke out, my father’s grandfather had completed exactly one year of apprenticeship with a local doctor, and one course of lectures at the University of Nashville Medical School.  When the Confederate Military Medical Unit called, the battlefield became his on-the-fly arena of higher education. He genuinely was a doctor on horseback. Given a choice between fighting at the front and tending to the wounded in the back, it was certainly the safer position to be in. Five years after the war ended, in 1874, he finally returned to Medical School in Nashville and officially graduated a year later. He set up a private practice in Elkton, married, and started a family.  When his first wife died he married the local school teacher. Among the family there are two genetic traits we all hope to avoid. One is large ears that poke out on either side (“Grannie Glaze ears”) and the other is a beak nose (“Grannie Glaze nose”). I once asked, “Okay, so if this lady had huge ears and a beak nose, how on earth did she manage to attract a husband, much less a Doctor?”  My father’s reply was logical, “He was a widower and a working doctor with several children. He was educated and more sophisticated than most locals; she was an educated school teacher and possibly one of the few single women in Elkton.”  They proceeded to have additional children. He was actually the original Andrew L. Glaze, although his middle name was “Lewis”.  Family rumor has it that when his school teacher wife had their first son, she was a bit of a culture snob, and so his son and grandson (my father) were named “Andrew Louis Glaze”.  

By the way, if you’ve never heard of the University of Nashville Medical School, it’s because it became the origin of Vanderbilt Medical School. My father’s father later studied medicine there. He went the more conventional route, and, lacking the necessity of becoming a battlefield surgeon, chose Dermatology.

—E. Glaze

NiZUMA aVE 1938 darkenedAndrew Louis Glaze Jr. (the poet and writer) at age 18 in 1938. The photo was taken on a break from Webb School, on a visit home in Birmingham, Alabama.
Photo is property of the Andrew L. Glaze Estate.

Dr. Thomas Cutt
My father’s beloved teacher, Dr. Thomas Cutt, who was the Latin and Greek teacher at Webb School in Bell Buckle, Tennessee. I am guessing the lady on the left was his wife. It looks like it must’ve been a hot weekend summer day, and everybody was going casual.
Photo by Andrew L. Glaze, property of the Andrew L. Glaze Estate.

Andrew L. Glaze as an Army Air Corps Communications Officer. 1942.
Photo is property of the Andrew L. Glaze Estate.

To A Young Man On His 254th Birthday

Wolferl, young friend, what about
all this fal-lal and hoorah?
Oh, you’d love the performances,
no doubt of that!
You wrote somebody once
that on taking a theater seat,
hearing the orchestra begin to tune,
immediately, you were beside yourself.

They’ve got a thing at Salzburg
involving the house where you were born.
Probably you felt about the place as fiercely
as anyone does about the place they were born.
It’s a place.

But we’re speaking of serenades—
And three companies recording the same opera
in the same hall, with different people,
in six weeks. Remarkable!
Too bad you won’t get any of the royalties.

It is bound to come to someone
before the year’s over, to dredge
Vienna’s Central Cemetery like a potato farm
Wanted: medium skull, with small cerphalic index,
probably Alpine; prominent nose, tracery upon
the brain pan in C clefs.

A useless labor, certainly, the climate and all.
They’d some to-do, a while ago,
to re-unite the lower Papa Haydn
with his wandering head-piece.
Probably it’s just as well you’ve lost.
Some enthusiastic zealot might bite off your finger,
as some idiot bit off St. Francis Xavier’s toe.
Rest your bones.

How? Rest? Well, possibly not.
Certainly they laid you out by force.
That and Papa’s religious prejudice about
vaccination. I doubt if you care to rest.
But it’s true you sang a bit of the requiem
there at the end.  Still, I think it was,
as always with you, the enjoyment of pathos.
Life as the dramatist!
Always the man standing behind the man
standing behind the mask.
You probably thought of death
as postlude-prelude; paying the price,
settling yourself in a cheap seat somewhere
to listen for the tuning of the orchestra.
On hearing it, you’d be
beside yourself at once.

© Andrew Glaze 2002, from the book Remembering Thunder

My father had an amazing memory for music.  In 2015, when he was 95, I happened to stumble across an old family scrapbook and notice a theater program for a 1948 Birmingham production of Romeo and Juliet.  According to the credits, my mother had a role, her mother made the costumes, and my father composed music for a song in the play.  Initially, when I showed him the program he claimed to have no memory of the production. Five minutes later he was humming the tune.

My grandmother once said my father blamed her for allowing him to drop out of piano lessons. “He really seemed to hate them, but later said I should have pushed him more and insisted.”  He mentioned the same regret to me.  And yet he was one of the most musical people I have ever known and music was second only to words and poetry in his world. As a child in a local boys’ choir, he was the only member able to hit high E above C and was rewarded with solos. At Harvard he became a member of the Glee Club. As a young man he joined the Hugh Thomas Choir at Birmingham-Southern College, just for the sheer joy of singing.  It was there that he met my mother. One day she was waiting for a bus, and he zoomed around the block so he could casually pull up beside her and offer a lift home.

For as long as I can remember, the first thing my father did every morning was turn the classical radio station on. From that point on, Mozart and company would entertain us all day long until my father climbed into bed at night and turned the radio off.  “Name that composer” was a favorite private hobby, and occasional shouts from his corner desk in the living room would announce that he’d accurately guessed the origin of a piece of music he’d never heard before.  At some point he remarked that as a boy he’d presented his father with a boxed set of Mozart recordings for his birthday, knowing full well that it was actually something he himself wanted.  Mozart remained a lifelong favorite.

In the early 70’s, a burgeoning friendship with classical composer Alan Hovhaness resulted in a collaboration for a Light opera-musical called, “The Most Engaged Girl”.  (Read the post “Life of a Gnat” if you’d like to learn more about this).  At the same time, my father had a play in the works titled, “Kleinhoff Demonstrates Tonight”.  As one of the lead characters was a singer, it was a natural progression for my father to write songs for him.  And they were GOOD!  The New York Public Theater did a Live Reading of it and asked the performer known as “Meatloaf” to play the role.

My father’s love of music proved to be an inheritable trait. However, when music entered my brain it evoked an irresistible urge for movement and I became a classical ballet dancer.  In my brother it evoked an urge to sing, play instruments, and compose. Entirely self-taught, at this point he has learned guitar, ukulele, banjo, mandolin, piano, and finds it difficult to sit still in free moments without an instrument in hand.

The New York City classical station was and still is WQXR. For my father, who later lived in Miami, and then returned to Birmingham, no other station could compete.  Near the end of my father’s life, when he was bedridden in Birmingham, my brother and I set up a laptop to livestream broadcasts from New York for him. He’d close his eyes in bliss and wave his hands in time with the music for what seemed like hours.

For 90 plus years, my father’s life, and our life as a family, had been accompanied by classical music.   Experts tell us that when we die, the very last sense to leave us is the gift of hearing.  So it seems incredibly appropriate that when my father finally took his last breath and slipped away into the next world, his exit was accompanied by WQXR.

Interesting Facts Mentioned in the Poem:
Yes,
as a child his name of Wolfgang was shortened to the nickname Wolferl”.
Yes
, Mozart’s father chose not to vaccinate his children for small pox. At age 11, Mozart
nearly died of the disease. He suffered through a long series of other serious illnesses over the course of his life and died at age 35.
Yes, it’s true that grave robbers managed to sever composer Josef Haydn’s head and steal it.  Ten years later the thieves were caught and gave authorities a skull that was placed in his grave, but kept the real thing to themselves. 145 years later, Haydn’s genuine skull was finally reunited with his body.  To this day, there are two skulls buried with Haydn’s body. One is genuine, and the other a mystery.
Yes, it’s true that a fan of St. Francis Xavier was so overcome by grief at his funeral that she bit off his big toe.  It was later rescued and encased as a relic.
Yes, it’s true that Mozart’s birthplace is now a museum in Salzburg, Austria.  The family lived on the 3rd floor from 1747 to 1773.  There is also a building in Innsbruck with a plaque stating that Mozart lived there as a child for a while. The one in Innsbruck currently houses a very subdued McDonalds fast food joint.  Truth is, Mozart traveled so much, from a very young age, that his trail resembles the American adage “George Washington slept here”.
Yes, the poem was published in 2002, and Mozart’s 254th Anniversary was not until 2010.
Yes, near the end of his life Mozart was visited by a mysterious masked man who commissioned him to compose a Requiem. As Mozart worked on the piece he became increasingly ill and began to feel that he was writing it for himself. Tragically, he died before it was finished.
Yes, Mozart was buried in an unmarked paupers grave and therefore is unlikely to suffer the same fate that Haydn did.

Mozart

—-E. Glaze