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A Tonalist Poetry Feature

E. Tracy Grinnell

from «Helen, A Fugue»

Part III:

Where heat
or anarchy, beat

affinities animate
the animal, lying
, residue of my foreign tongue

gasps cloister
my armory, the crowds
, sacrificial birds, render

what thought, was flying
turreted my

              contrary feeling
myth itself

armor, a name in name

my own, in name
           travels where
, no body

letters alone

I, my letters
           in absence of

fastening fast, furied
lambs for

loudening illusion
, fall falsely

how else traverse
, in loudening

howls the rendered

darkest, darkening
refraction, our

           how else
stand, walk, murmur, think
, grieve?

Part IV:

tongues, I
throttle among

           , my
limbs are, thumbs
phantom-fleeing, succumbing
, upon reflection

shots rung out
in lines, of image-

convictions made, of stones
, pebbles,            unturned, the urns

follow my,
city, pursue

           , body-figures
, cut and calloused
my, pyre

flood, swallows
, gone

messages slant from
rubble, trapped just, quartets

, as if,
the end of time

disaster’s animals
restrained, in rooms

whatsoever the dark,
earth, loves

               returns, from it
every front line, rendered

lost what’s, all
is, what I lay
, here

the walls shall have it all

cloaked in songs, the brawls
hereafter, the place, I
, no more identify, than love, I
the undersigned


Helen, A Fugue is structured in parts, which follow a pattern of beats (in the theatrical sense): eight groups of four. Parts may be assigned to one or two voices, since they mirror one another. It works as a palindrome:

Part I    Part II    Part III    Part IV    Part IV    Part III    Part II    Part I
8421       4218        2184        1842         2481        4812       8124       1248

In this excerpt, Part III is from the first half of the palindrome and Part IV is from the second half.

E. Tracy Grinnell

E. Tracy Grinnell

The beats are indicated by “stanza” breaks and these spaces should be observed as silences. Commas and caesuras should be taken very literally as pauses within beats, so that a comma or caesura (or both) at the beginning or within a beat is a rhythmic indicator to the reader. The duration of the silence indicated by commas and caesuras can be determined freely but should be consistent relative to one another, and the beats.

This note is excerpted from “Notes toward a performance of Helen, A Fugue

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