Soprano Hila Plitmann and pianist Tali Tadmor perform the world premiere of “The Palm Trees Are Restless”: Five Poems of Kate Gale by composer Mark Abel at Boston Court Performing Arts Center, Pasadena, Ca., October 1, 2016.
THE PALM TREES ARE RESTLESS
Five Poems of Kate Gale
1. The Storm Drain
Liquid canopy descending sky
It’s dark inside the storm drain
but you took me here.
Tongue slow lips open hands lightly under.
When I’m eighty no one will crawl with me
in a storm drain to hold my breasts
while the sky is falling.
I lean into corrugated metal. Rust.
Age. Wet. My back into all that.
2. Los Angeles
Los Angeles people look right through you,
see little ghosts with no shape or color.
Money gives a body form like a straitjacket
holding you against wind, pestilence.
You are shadow against dusk. Cream against pale.
All colors not cream become sunshine.
I have stood in the sill of time counting my days,
the cups full of cries
and laughter, paint and words, silence and tea
equal nothing here.
Los Angeles, once a desert glitters green
The green holds you up against the sky.
Gives you shadow.
That shadow casts longing across beaches
As morning opens, you see hands stretching out
for a piece.
The palm trees are restless. Your silhouette an outline.
Light streams across you, you are nothing.
You must be thin to cast a shadow. You must
drive a cool car. You must have blond highlights.
There is no place for silence. I stare in the mirror.
Cover my face with my hands.
My hands hold my reflection. In the mirror I see nothing.
3. Crater Light
The man drinking whiskey sours tells me about his divorce.
The problem was his wife, apparently. She would not
lie still. Any movement, any distraction
She knew this. She was warned. Yet she moved arms, ears, toes.
Stay still, he said. His wife underneath.
Said it louder. She froze. The light changed.
Moonlight, shadow. I can’t focus, he said.
She opened her eyes. Can I watch?
Better not, he said. Nothing’s going to happen.
Stay still. She knew he was right by the way
the moon’s craters seized the light and reflected it back
to earth through the window. Unable to create light of their own.
Some receptors create. She was sure of this. She stayed still,
but he was right, nothing happened. What he tells me?
She was warned. He buys me a drink. Hopes my mind
But my mind is with his wife in bed watching the moon’s craters.
It wasn’t a face anymore. A broken thing.
Opened wide by time and cavernous washes of memory.
Waves of what might have been.
The memory where my sister’s face
was is empty of light and shadow.
Time rushed in leaving stains only of itself.
All hollows and blank fields where iridescent sunshine
glances off, goes its own way. Search for eyes shining.
Nothing. Huge dark spaces. Lips that move randomly
around parroted word shapes. A face like leaf shards buried.
What used to be alive pieces floating around
just under the surface, you see them give way to decay.
Used to hold water and sunlight, echo sky even.
Now darkness. A face once. Surely a face.
5. The Great Divorce
You can’t talk to me like this.
I told you. Or somebody told you.
Somebody ought to have told you.
I’ve suffered terribly. I’m fragile.
And therefore. You musn’t. No.
You don’t see. I’ve had to pick myself up.
Hold it all together.
I’ve been raped by pretty much
every male I’ve ever met.
A sort of rape anyway.
Something I would characterize as rape.
You can’t imagine.
You really have no idea. Don’t start.
Let me stop you. Let me pour myself a quick shot
of Hennessy and stop you.
No, I don’t want to go to therapy. Don’t you see?
This is who I am. That’s the problem with most people.
They don’t actually see you.
They see it. This thing you hold in front of your face
to keep them out. To keep them from knowing anything
they can hold against you, and they will.
Home Is A Harbor: An Opera in Three Acts
The Palm Trees Are Restless: Five Poems of Kate Gale
World Premiere Recordings
“a compelling musical theater piece which combines classical and modern musical elements with contemporary dramatic situations…. These two new works… come highly recommended for all enthusiasts of contemporary music…” — Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold, Fanfare Magazine