Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Night Songs by Kristina Marie Darling

Kristina Marie Darling continues her balance of strong versus delicate characters in her collection Night Songs. Originally published by Gold Wake Press in 2010 and now available by re-release, this collection focuses on music, the glint of nightfall, an audience gripped by the sounds in the music hall, Darling captures the intimate moments of music resonating within the listener and the feel and nature of the surroundings. True to her nature, Darling finds the romance in the details shrouding the reader in a world of dusty velvet folds, the rustle of foliage, the cold wind against the music player and the moon casting its own curious glow. Below I am happy to share a sample of her work:


But the room stayed dark. I’d noticed the cellist’s luminous cufflinks, the uncanny whiteness of his shirt. As the concert ended, I heard nothing but his music, & the cold night pulled each silver pin from her hair. That was when the curtain fell. The audience could only murmur before its folds of dusty velvet. Outside, the evening had been opened like a black umbrella.

I love the sensations described in this piece. A night so cold that it unravels a woman’s hair as she listens to the cellist, the cellist’s music so gripping that the audience can only speak in hushed tones after the curtains fall. I can picture the patrons moving softly into the night deeply moved by the concert and I envy the patrons and wish for all the world I could experience it myself.


On nights like this I would play my cello, the snow like tinfoil under a phosphorescent moon. Before I knew it, you were there, with your handkerchiefs and melancholia. The light on my windowpane, a struck match all aglow. We would take turns cradling the instrument’s long neck, its cavernous belly, watching the cold metal strings shiver and hum. After each chord you’d swallow glittering nerve tablets, whispering: Be still. Be. Still. Its sonorous voice faded with each blue pill. And when the snow eddied and slushed, the cello safe in its towering white box, I took up sainthood to pass the time. On winter mornings my teeth still ache.

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a poem that turns the cello into something sensual outside of its musicality with such elegance. I wonder about the type of person who needs to take nerve pills in order to play this instrument and I think of writers who also take measures of their own in order to write. The line “I took up sainthood to pass the time” has me eager to find out what this character means, especially since her teeth still ache on winter mornings—I imagine from keeping stress and tension in the jaw line. It’s a beautiful poem and I love being able to create my own backstory from it.


He begins by playing the saddest song he knows, an elegy for each dark red leaf rustling on the trees. And out of it drifts a woman’s voice, ringing like an iron bell into the cold blue night. As if to postpone a change of seasons with her low madrigal, its muted crescendos, the instrument’s stuttering fugue. Yet when the frost sets in, every note becomes an ode, echoing through parched foliage. Within that music, a wilderness. The forest’s dried canopy heaves and sways.

This poem reminds me of solitary walks into the woods or through snow, the musician’s song altering in the mind of the person walking and imagining a woman’s voice instead, the voice amplified by the silence and stillness that surrounds the main character in my own vision of this poem. I love the scene that unfolds, parched foliage, a canopy that “heaves and sways” where you can almost hear the crackling and snapping of branches—a sound I miss since I now live in a warm and humid location that rarely offers this opportunity. Another poem I love just for my own tastes.

If you enjoyed this brief sample as much as I do, you may purchase a copy of Night Songs by Kristina Marie Darling $14.95 at:

Thanks always for reading, please drop by again soon…