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Sonatas X

Pieces of the Present Abide - The Life of the River
(East Branch Rock River Wisconsin)

Words by Brendan and Khaetidawne Quirk


The paradigms and syntagms of life
Simple concepts dressed in fancy words
Paradigms describe the choices made at each point
Syntagms lay out the timeline of life.

Life, existence, can be seen as an eternal string
All points exist at once, though we see only our part
At each point in our path, we are but a piece
Of the entire journey, part of the whole.

We are born, age, and die - Nothing new here
But look from the outside! You may see
A whole life at once! You can see the beginning and the end
All together – laid out for all to see!

Now, The River! A metaphor for our syntagmatic life
It is also born, matures, grows old, dies.
Maybe a rebirth is possible, a new life?
But it all exists simultaneously - just see!

Nascita - Adagio

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Sonatas X-1 (Nascita - Adagio) Sonatas X-2 (Nascita - Adagio)
My life springs here, and everywhere about
Coming up from the ground, gathering together
Each source small and inconspicuous
Renewing itself continuously.
Can you tell I will be a River?
Or am I a marsh?
The marsh nourishes and gives life
The River takes it afield.
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Sonatas X-3 (Nascita - Adagio)  
I gather strength, set out on my journey.
Travel through both time and space,
The steps of the earthly syntagm
Birth, reeds and water, clouds and sky.

Gioventu - Presto

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Sonatas X-4 (Gioventu - Presto) Sonatas X-5 (Gioventu - Presto)
Young, barely above a creek, I see my first town
Strengthened by the life of smaller streams, I gain confidence
Small enough yet for a child to ford,
Promise builds with the flow.
Reaching town, peaceful children, peaceful play,
A peaceful place, set aside to commune with me
They cross over – do they look below?
Do they see me – do they see what I will be?
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Sonatas X-6 (Gioventu - Presto) Sonatas X-7 (Gioventu - Presto)
Arriving at man’s pretty nature preserve,
The railroad and I together have traveled from Allenton
Mirrors in our journey, disparate in our methods
Both tracing the syntagms of our lives in the landscape.
Come into the space where the wildlife play
Kayaks, birdwatchers, fishers, dogs, and canoes
I will support you all, provide for all that you do
Launch your boat on a summer day,
pass the reeds and you are on your way.
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Sonatas X-8 (Gioventu - Presto) Sonatas X-9 (Gioventu - Presto)
Growing larger, coming in to Theresa
Am I now ready to approach “civilization”?
Here at the River’s Edge Park, I see a greeting card,
Laced edge scenery, youth, peaceful trysts!
Not there just yet. Another park?
Beautiful turns decorate my path
I trace vision through time and space
Is that the image of a fisherman in the scenery?

Adulto - Andante

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Sonatas X-10 (Adulto - Andante) Sonatas X-11 (Adulto - Andante)
I come to the highway; youth is behind me
From here, man grows into insistent importance
These formal parks mark spaces of being for the youth, the seekers
We tarry a bit, savor the peace and the joy.
Ah – but turning the other way, transition -
We see Theresa, complete with steeple!
Much like a doll town, idealized existence
I sustain you, make you real, have I grown now?
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Sonatas X-12 (Adulto - Andante) Sonatas X-13 (Adulto - Andante)
Well, sent back to the countryside…
Meandering between the towns, bucolic galore
Reaching my adult form, wide and ample
Turning round the river’s bend.
Here am I, a fully realized river, between the edges of the forest
I travel from one town to the “city” (as they say…)
Look back, see the end of the forest trees
From here we will deal with man (always?)
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Sonatas X-14 (Adulto - Andante) Sonatas X-15 (Adulto - Andante)
First - A stop at Zastrow’s strawberry farm
“You-pick-em”; for one month a year, at least
Sunday outings in June, family experiences all-round
Strawberry fields at the riverside, behind the reeds grow ever wide.
Coming round the big bend into Mayville
Lion’s Point, herons and turtles, muskrats, golf course
Looking through the leaves of lace I see the egret in his place,
Spying out the paradigms of nature.
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Sonatas X-16 (Adulto - Andante) Sonatas X-17 (Adulto - Andante)
Now that I have passed the bend
I see the “city”, tiny its true, fit for the likes of me
I look across my breadth, what do I see?
Is there someone in that stone house looking at me?
I find a dam – it bars the way!
I must go over – the River will find its way -
Always. Here they had their mill
I work now, no time for meanders.

Anziano - Placido poi Furioso

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Sonatas X-18 (Anziano - Placido poi Furioso) Sonatas X-19 (Anziano - Placido poi Furioso)
I float through this quiet “city”
Pass through the backyards, “civilization” signified
Here the ferries crossed, the mills turned,
Here the ducks passed during Audubon Days.
Here is another dam. Can I make it over?
Of course! I am the River! Little force is needed
Has my energy been drained? Must conserve…
At least I saw the ducks go by; which will win?
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Sonatas X-20 (Anziano - Placido poi Furioso) Sonatas X-21 (Anziano - Placido poi Furioso)
Now I slow down, rest a bit
Placid, shallow, quiet; old age?
So many timeless places along the River
Gentle, I spread out, slow, but never stop.
Ziegler – another Park! (Always the parks!)
The rocks, remember - Rock River!
They look like lumps of sugar, dissipating
In my waters – Memories, dissolving.
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Sonatas X-22 (Anziano - Placido poi Furioso) Sonatas X-23 (Anziano - Placido poi Furioso)
But wait – there is still life yet!
Heavy rain reinvigorates my flow
I rise again, foam in the water
You may cross over, but beware my strength!
Kekoskee sees my last vitality
The old River shows its final strength
The trees still fear my flood
I will rage while I can!

Morte e Renascita - Andantino

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Sonatas X-24 (Morte e Renascita - Andantino) Sonatas X-25 (Morte e Renascita - Andantino)
I am spent, it is long since my birth
Yet you may visit my cradle as you will
Here I nourish the life of the marsh again
The manifold world of life and death
The ultimate comedown – harnessed by the men!
Indernuhle Island, boardwalks crossing my waters
My identity is forfeited, I am the River no more
It seems an ignoble end for sure -
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Sonatas X-26 (Morte e Renascita - Andantino) Sonatas X-27 (Morte e Renascita - Andantino)
Again – but wait! I am reborn in Horicon!
My branches form up, those I had never known before
I leave the assembly point, come forth
I am a new River, but I feel my roots still!
My new Self, full Self,
I leave my birth and death place
I flow on to distant vistas; Shall I speak of my beginning?
Or my future; or all time at once?

Copyright © 2023 Brendan J. Quirk