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This is a watercolor painting--the largest I have painted--of my father. Measuring 40" x 30", this is called 'Silence of the Bard. Why a Bard? Because even though my father never played a musical instrument he composed beautiful images using the music of words. This is why the impression of the strings extends out into the landscape, which becomes a melodically conceived universe. And, why Silence? because he never shared his last body of work with anyone. It is not been read by others, until now, until I published this book in his tribute: Home.
Have you ever listened, I mean, really listened to the lyrics of 'Twinkle, twinkle'? The words can truly take on different meanings, which is something I explored in moments of despair and moments of hope in my novel. When Ben goes to Sunrise Home to visit his mother, who has been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's, he wonders about her. Can he reach her, can he evoke some memory in her mind? Her body is intact, but is it now merely an empty shell? He knows not what she has become, who she is... In the background, an old woman's voice can be heard, croaking a lullaby. And somehow, the words take on a meaning of a heart-wrenching farewell:
"Then, to the sound of the thin, painful voice in the distance, breathing the words, Though I know not... What you are... Twinkle, twinkle... Little star, I glance at my mother.
I wonder if what I am going to say about this or that photograph will make any difference, because now I am starting to lose heart. I doubt we can ever find a way—be it a way back, or a way forward—to connect to each other.
The time I remember is no more than a wrinkle for her."
In another scene, Anita raises her eyes to the musical animal mobile, which she has hung up overhead, for her baby. She sings the words as she crosses her hands around her body, embracing him. Expecting new life, the lullaby takes on a meaning of hope:
"For now, I mean, until I get a cradle for my baby, it’s hung up in the bedroom window, right in the center, where the blinds meet.
So at night, when I feel sad, or tired, or just sleepy, I pull out the little string to wind the thing up, which makes the animals go fly—fly like a dream—so slowly around your head.
And at the same time, it brings out a sweet lullaby, chiming, Twinkle, twinkle, little star... How I wonder what you are...
I stand here, by the window under the mobile. I touch the glass between one blind and another, and watch them animals, mirrored. They come in like ghosts, one after another, right up to the surface, swing around, and fly back out, into the dark. Then I gaze at them stars up there, so far beyond, and ask myself if they’re real—or am I, again, misreading some reflection."
“Go, why don’t you go back home,” he mutters, dismissing me with a casual wave of the hand.
“Please,” I say. “Let me serve you. You’ll find my music soothing, I trust.”
“Trust?” he says, locking eyes with me.
“Just so, your majesty. Trust!”
“There is no such thing, where I’m sitting.”
“But my music—”
“It awakens something in me,” he groans, pressing a hand against his temple. “Something I wish to ignore. An unspeakable sort of pain. There’s a demon in me, and I know—I just know he’ll break loose, he’ll take over, the moment I’ll let myself soften.”
“Perhaps not,” I suggest. “If you soften, the pain may wash over you, heal your soul. You may find yourself rising anew, if only you would listen to me. Let me, your majesty. Let me play.”
The king shakes his head, No. No.
“It’s not the music,” he mutters. “It’s you. I can’t bare looking at you.”
This leaves me dumbfounded, and I stand at his feet, waiting for what may come out of his lips next.
After a while he moans, “Boy—”
“Have you ever been wounded? Ever been on a battlefield?”
“No,” I say. “My mother won’t let—”
“Of course,” he bares his teeth, belittling me with laughter. “It’s always the mother. Yours must be a smart woman to keep you safe, away from any danger.”
“I give you my word, I’ll follow you anywhere,” I say. “Even to the battlefield. Sounds exciting, no matter what my mother says.”
He raises one of his eyebrows as if to say, I know how you feel. She hides the world from you, doesn’t she.
“Yes,” I have to agree. “I hate it, hate being protected. Makes me wonder what’s on the other side of obedience.”
He pays no attention to what I say. “Listen, boy. Let me tell you one thing: often, when I leave the bloodied scene and ride back here, a long way over the range of the mountains, I don’t even realize I’ve been wounded. My mind wanders, it roams elsewhere... But then…Then I look at myself. And what do I see? A slash, deep across my flesh... And this, this is the time—not a moment earlier—when the pain comes. In a snap, it takes a bite.”
Saul takes a long pause. Then he looks straight down at me. “That’s how I feel, right this minute,” he says. “That’s what your music does to me.”
Listen to but a segment out of this excerpt, in the voice of my gifted narrator, David George:
If your browser wouldn't play it, try this. The awkward relationship between the tormented king Saul and the musician boy whose job it is to relieve him of his demons is the subject of numerous paintings in art history. Compare for example these two paintings. The modern painting by He Qi stages the two figures so that David is playing his music face to us, entirely taking by his divine inspiration which is symbolized by the white smoke rising fem his hand. Entirely oblivious to what the king does, David does not suspect that in a moment, a spear may pierce his back. It is up to you, the observer, to cry out and warn him. By contrast, the traditionally executed oil painting by Ernst Josephson positions David and Saul facing each other. You can interpret David's pose two different ways. Perhaps he is raising his eyes above the king, to capture a divine inspiration--or else, he is taunting Saul with his youth and talent.