Notes From an Empty Room
for Arsentiy Kharitonov
by Linda Ibbotson

There is a room in St Petersburg.
From the piano there is a view, a courtyard,
each cobblestone, a story in a language of its own;
the voice of exiles, desolation, of silence in winter snow.
There are shadows etched with grey charcoal,
as brittle as dead men’s bones.

Moonlight plays on empty walls,
icicles melt, water trickles like tributaries,
edges of windows freeze breath.
A chandelier, the colour of cathedral glass,
hangs, as fragile as discontent.

At night, there is a vision of a Chagall in blue.

I turned my eyes to the west, New York, 57th St,
think of nights spent with red wine and introductions,
of playing the
Rachmaninov – Concerto No 2 in C Minor;
the opening strike of church bells fortifying our very existence.
In contrast, the
Adagio Sostenuto, as soothing as a still lake.
Laughter, silk dresses, encores, a standing ovation from strangers.
Critics wrote
Rachmaninov lives on.
                                           ~
I recall endless summers with
Sergie at beloved Ivanovka,
of picnics in fields of dew and wild orchids,
watch the solitary arms of a windmill paint the sky.
From the doorway of the music room I observe virtuosity,
hands stretch across thirteen notes, stretch across the hours,
decipher beauty, sorrow, surrender.

There was nothing broken then.
 
On an October wind, a fist of dissonance marched.
You grasp your coat and hat, a small case of music,
from the sleigh, your eyes still mapping the keyboard
as a cartographer maps the world.

                                           ~

At the piano, I count time,
shape notes, rearrange with restless hands,
black cuts into white,
the same way a skater’s blade cuts into ice,
slender limbs glide beneath a long white dress,
chiffon folds like pages of a dying love.
Scores scatter on the floor as if confetti,

legato, diminuendo, highlighted in orange and blue,
the treble clef resembling an arched swans neck,
the curve of the Volga river, the curve of a body.

I watch clouds as they spiral in the salt winds to the Steppe,
fall into blades of wild grass,
listen to the wasteland, cold and barren,
hear its stones crying out for want.
Time wound me around its fingers,
as I rehearse with longing and doubt,
desire to remain in the solace between sleep and wake.

There is a room in
St Petersburg.
From the piano there is a view, a courtyard,
each cobblestone, a story in a language of its own,
the voice of exiles, desolation, of silence in winter snow.

Outside, a storm breaks as I peer through the darkness.
Copyright © by Linda Ibbotson
Music by Arsentiy Kharitonov