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‘The Myth of Music’ is a poem written by Rachel M. Harper. It is a poem that employs musical jargon to explore familial bonds.
About the Poet:
Rachel M. Harper is an eminent author and screenwriter. ‘Brass Ankle Blues’, her first novel, was selected as a Target Breakout Book. Famous works of her thus include ‘Brass Ankle Blues’, ‘This Side of Providence’, and ‘Bluffing on a Queen’s Playground’.
This poem is divided into 3 stanzas with lines of consistent length. Written in free verse, it does not follow a rhyme scheme.
If music can be passed on like brown eyes or a strong left hook, this melody is my inheritance, lineage traced through a title track, displayed on an album cover that you pin to the wall as art, oral history taught on a record player, the lessons sealed into the grooves like fact. This is the only myth I know. I sit on the hardwood floors of a damp November, my brother dealing cards from an incomplete deck, and I don't realize that this moment is the definition of family, collective memory cut in rough-textured tones, the voice of a horn so familiar I don't know I'm listening, Don't know I'm singing, a child's improvisation of Giant Steps or Impressions songs without lyrics can still be sung.
The poem begins with the persona addressing their father. They state that if music can be passed along, then that would be their inheritance, a mark of their lineage from title track to album cover. This, they claim, is the only myth they know and call it ‘oral history’ as well.
In November, the persona sees their brother dealing a deck of cards and state how that was the definition of what a family was. This memory is like a song to the persona, all too familiar and can be sung like ‘Giant Steps’ and ‘Impressions’- even without words.
In six months, when my mother is 2,000 miles away, deciding if she wants to come home, I will have forgotten this moment, the security of her footsteps, the warmth of a radiator on my back, and you present in the sound of typing your own accompaniment, multiphonics disguised as chords in a distant room, speakers set on high to fill the whole house with your spirit, your call as a declaration of love.
The persona playing cards with her brother does not realise that in six months, her mother will be very far away, pondering whether or not to return home. By then, the persona would have forgotten the memories shared with their mother and the security they felt in her presence. High music is said here to be the spirit of the persona’s mother, a ‘declaration of love’.
But the music will remain. The timeless notes of jazz too personal to play out loud, stay locked in the rhythm of my childhood, memories fading like the words of a lullaby, come to life in a saxophone's blow. They lie when they say music is universal—this is my song, the notes like fingerprints as delicate as breath. I will not share this air with anyone but you.
Unlike the persona’s mother, the music will remain with the persona. The jazz continues staying with them from childhood. Even as memories fade, the saxophone’s music stays on. The poem ends with the persona rejecting the notion that music is universal and asserts that it belongs only to themselves and ‘you’, their father.
This is a beautiful poem. It sheds light on the power of music, how even when memories and family all leave, it stays on.