A Musician’s Wife by Weldon Kees


The spring of 1959 featured some huge weather fluctuations in Lincoln. In April alone the temperature ranged from a low point of 26 degrees to a high of 86. May was nearly as variant: from 37 degrees all the way up to 93. A poet published in the spring issue of Prairie Schooner that year had experienced much of this kind of weather as a young man. Weldon Kees, who had disappeared four years prior, was a native of Beatrice, Nebraska, and an alum of the University of Nebraska.

by Tory Clower



A Musician’s Wife
Weldon Kees


Between the visits to the shock ward
The doctors used to let you play
On the old upright Baldwin
Donated by a former patient
Who is said to be quite stable now.

And all day long you played Chopin,
Badly and hauntingly, when you weren’t
Screaming on the porch that looked
Like an enormous birdcage. Or sat
In your room and stared out at the sky.

You never looked at me at all.
I used to walk down to where the bus stopped
Over the hill where the eucalyptus trees
Moved in the fog, and stared down
At the lights coming on, in the white rooms.

And always, when I came back to my sister’s,
I used to get out the records you made
The year before all your terrible trouble,
The records the critics praised and nobody bought
That are almost worn out now.

Now, sometimes I wake in the night
And hear the sound of dead leaves
Against the shutters. And then a distant
Music starts, a music out of an abyss,
And it is dawn before I sleep again.