Ludwig’s Last Note

Beethoven at a Broadwood. Deaf, held in the cruelty
of jaundice, his life, as they say, a guttering candle
flickering defiance at his unlidded piano. Broken
quills litter a table; ink is open,

Spilled; paper is everywhere; staved off,
a tiny scrawl of etched entreaties, intentions,
demands.   Last movement, then. He strikes
the keys with rage he cannot hear, a tumult

of silence hisses its answer. He is pursuing
a simple theme and time keeps its distance.
His fingers seek new scales, arpeggios,
as they hammer noiselessly in his head.

Then, without a protest or the usual flourish,
they simply stop, a slowing to an absence, an emptiness.
And that’s it for the piano. He summons up the last quartets,
the European Ninth, then slips away to death.

That last sonata breaks the ground beyond.
Behind the weight of style and sound that was
his own, the sentence of that stop asserts a life
that suddenly is far too good to lose and then is gone.