The Rapture of Dissonance

I broke four times this year—four things broke me. Who cares, but the breaks all came after October 1st. When the breaks happen all at once it feels like bad luck. Like that “nothing is going to come my way” dock-of-the-bay feeling. Like snake bit.


But it wasn’t luck. The breaks were a long time coming, and when I broke again, and again, I had my little cries and didn’t call anyone and didn’t get off the freeway.


After so many years of so many breaks you start to get used to the broken version of yourself. Start mocking your own limp. And then you start to laugh even though no one has said a joke and no one else is laughing.


It doesn’t happen all at once. One day you just rouse yourself after all the years of breaking and you realize you’re not afraid of breaking anymore.


Not being afraid isn’t the same as being brave.


Lately, to make the pain go away, I’ve been making a personal study of pianos and piano players. I mean, pain and piano are kind of similar words. Eight-eight keys to eighty-eight locks.



The other night I watched Seymour, a sort of rambling biography documentary interview thing about the pianist Seymour Bernstein. One thing he said: “Without dissonance, there can be no resolution.”


Well no one ever had to tell me that. I’ve always loved the Dissonance Creed.


The harder thing is that just because there is dissonance doesn’t necessarily mean there will be resolution. Dissonance without resolution, well that’s what breaks you.


There isn’t any hope but maybe technique and patience are two things that get you from no chance of resolution to maybe a fifteen percent chance. And sure, I’ll take those odds.


From my broken state, New Year’s resolutions seem so silly.


Last week I wondered if my goal for the New Year should be to only review poetry books written by poets with five syllables in their names. Sadly, I wouldn’t be able to review myself, but there are lots of others with appellation mouthfuls so I could probably always be reading.


Instead, my two goals for the New Year are pretty small. So small, nearly impossible to fail, but still, more than what I’m used to. The first is that I want to eat more slowly. Like, after putting a fork to my mouth I want to set it on the table rather than head straight for another bite. So call that one, put the fork down after each bite.


On a related subject, I’m also going to try to scoop peas with my knife rather than my fingers. Even when no one is looking.


My second goal is to stop bashing MFA programs. This isn’t something I’ve done in the past, but I could easily see myself becoming the sort of person who did this, who would put his smart-ass bone to not very positive pursuits.


I guess, no, I don’t like or agree with all of them but for the most part the teachers are trying to help others turn dissonance into resolution.


And that’s worth some love.


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