Schonmaier Rzewski.jpg

Bobby Mitchell and Frederic Rzewski (2012).  Photo by Eleonore Schönmaier.





winter months

of insomnia


Frederic inks

three nocturnes

hoping sleep will


reach him like a gift

dropped through

the mail slot


like a feather

fallen from a

blue wing, like the


memory of the sunset

slipping through

the late evening blinds


like the midnight

train where the two single

men, the couple,


the family with children

all have their

eyes shut, a few soft


snores and Frederic

with his head

against the window


also falls away

from the world

as he hurtles


toward a destination

whose address he

often fails to find


From Dust Blown Side of the Journey (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2017)

“[Frederic Rzewski] has, for decades, been making thought-provoking, heart-wrenching music about issues that dominate the headlines today: the perils of incarceration, the tension between the government and the governed, the struggle for gay rights, the decimation of the industrial working class…Mr. Rzewski practices the progressive ideas he preaches, making his scores available online and encouraging, rather than blocking, the dissemination of his recordings on YouTube. He remains, he says, a revolutionary optimist. Asked if it’s possible actually to affect politics through music, Mr. Rzewski answered, “Probably not,” before adding, with a wry smile: “But you have to write as if you could. You can’t be sure. You might.”—Zachary Woolfe