Fight, Fiddle, Ply, Muzzle

First Fight. Then Fiddle.

First fight. Then fiddle. Ply the slipping string
with feathery sorcery; muzzle the note
with hurting love; the music that they wrote
bewitch, bewilder. Qualify to sing
threadwise. Devise no salt, no hempen thing
for the dear instrument to bear. Devote
the bow to silks and honey. Be remote
a while from malice and from murdering.
But first to arms, to armor. Carry hate
in front of you and harmony behind.
Be deaf to music and to beauty blind.
Win war. Rise bloody, maybe not too late
for having first to civilize a space
wherein to play your violin with grace.

–Gwendolyn Brooks

Brooks (1917-2000) was a Pulitzer prize-winning American Poet. She claimed that to create “bigness” you don’t have to create an epic. “Bigness,” said Brooks “can be found in a little haiku, five syllables, seven syllables.”

An outstanding example of this is exemplified by her most famous poem, “We Real Cool”:

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

3 Replies to “Fight, Fiddle, Ply, Muzzle”

  1. Amazing, subtle poem with powerful shift in the middle from the delicacy of creating an instrument to the blunt harshness of hate and war, deaf to music and the beauty of life. Vague echoes for me of Mark Twain’s War Prayer, but much more compact, delicate, artful in a small package. Love the jazzy little one, too. Such an excellent poem, finder, you are.

  2. Hey G, I love the attribution of poem finder–thanks! I don’t know Twain’s War Prayer, but I’ll find it and see the comparison you are making.

  3. I love this peom it’s so inspiring.

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