The Unconservatory  


from Elemental Portraits: Nocturnes for Two Pianos
composed by Kirk Whipple
—Kosal Long: 1975 to June 7, 1989

1. The end of a classic American dream
confronts the runner coming over the rise
of blond hills & dark trees mirroring the lake.
The drowned laughter of classmates
horsing around on a summer outing—
Their blind eyes, and the sun cresting each ripple,
the silent "O" of empty inner tubes,
punctuated the end of the sentence.
At the bottom of the lake a fisherman’s net
casts a game of cat’s cradle for things lost
and the sleek young diver—
The boy who, with his 14-year-old eyes
sought the true identity of light
on this side of the world:
the names Refugee &
                              whispering homeward
                                                            in his ears.

2. The runner’s legs measure
each step, each breath, bearing witness
as if life depended on it: systole, diastole.
The indifferent ground answers, Decrescendo.

No overtones to clear the ear’s palette.
The boy left the killing fields for El Verano.
We survived the war, saw death and hunger every day.
Now, the youngest and sweetest taken from us.

I dream of walking that lake bed clad in citrine light.
A constellation of bubbles escapes, takes flight.
A velvet foot upon the blue throat of the California sky,
the lotus flowering in the mind,
          a journey taking us home.
                    Home, could he whisper it
The long slender vowels of the soul,
no distant jungles to flee from—
Refugee camp, the bodycount and the hunger
          of foreign syllables.

          The harmony shifted
                    in the final depths:
                                        an empty raft in deep summer.


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Download a musical excerpt from Kosal Long: Sunset at Ilsanjo (mp3 format).

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Updated: January 25, 2001 (KB)

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