Alexander Liebermann

Composer

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Heavy Absence Op.22 (2021)

for Voice and piano

On a poem by Nkosi Nkululeko

Duration: 6:30 min.

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Heavy Absence

Streets are empty but roads still burn
with witnesses, with memories
curling into smoke. I turn

to rivers welled with ash and dust
like a citizen of fresh wastelands
or our city’s lonely autumns.

Who am I kidding? I couldn’t see
the future like I can’t see through
a body. With music,

I heal in vermillion colors, a million
reminders of how many voices
settled between broken octaves.

The beauty we’ve earned is a gruesome one,
vines corral anything abandoned—
their Green is lightning blooming

from fissures. During the pandemic the natural
world dims, a glowing firmament
in phrases. The soap between

our fingers is like snow melting, our hands
innovating fire that cannot stop
the burning of wounds.

We wound together, we prune together,
Become runes, ruin, wreckage—
Soft disturbances in

Our body’s inner light. Is a quiet darkness
Something we cannot endure?
We are human

Enough to risk the human. We’re human
Enough to love the outcome
of bondage.

Our ears are stuffed with cotton. Ludwig Van
is training ghosts of the underground,
bows thrummed into strings

of light. Computers haunt with
a haze of ethereal fur, news forecasted
like the weather of storms, seasons of hail.

Ads seem like tablets of outdated economies.
I watch the screen display blue light,

artificial as a hospital’s, vignettes of static
and somberness.

Who’s propaganda do
you believe in? Who’s
bellyful with rhetoric made to put

you into a sleep? Who can’t help but dream
about the palm of their enemies?

Air’s heavy with absence, particles flashing
Its media, floating at the shores of eyes like wood,
shards of a boat
lost in blue wantings.

Nkosi Nkululeko