Fall 2022, Volume 33

Poetry by Greg Sendi

The Green Lion and the Sun

In 1794, he was forced to accept the humiliating position of music teacher in the small central German town of Jena. In the last years of his life he worked on several ambitious compositions, which however never materialized. His fervent enthusiasm for the pursuit of alchemy remained the only joy of his final years.
                               —Mikael Helasvuo



Hey, I listened again

to the audition excerpts.

For whatever your

old man’s opinion is worth,

I thought they were winners.

When I hear you practice now,

the Bach, the Bartók,


I think I hear

what you’re trying to do





with the voices.

Yours aren’t the soaring kind

although sometimes,

when I think

you’re not trying

or not expecting it,

(I mean let me just say

I’m obviously

no expert, right?)

But they really will!





They’re the everyday kind,

taverns and truckstops.

Plenty of wet slaps,

gagging and screams.

Old men sucking their teeth.

A toddler losing her shit

in a uriney PlayPlace ballpit

in Wilkes Barre or Tulsa.

I hear

all that.





I see what you’re about

with the on-purpose messy.

All I’ll say is

it’s important

not to make a religion

out of one’s limitations, right?

I’m not saying,

you know. I mean.

Hey, what’s the difference

between a viola and a coffin?





The coffin has

the dead person on the inside.

Ok, funny, fine,

but really, who’s dead

and who’s alive is

an open question.





Fuck the soarers,






As for Charlie,

think about how, early on,

flirty Fraulein Pilz,

over a game of Doppelkopf,

believing she

had herself a catch,

might have held back

her Jack of Clubs

to take a trick,

then called him Charlie, too





Karlchen, right?

They both laugh

like dopes.

He thinks he’s courting her,

but anyone with eyes can see

who’s running that show.

Look, everyone

is bumping up

against the boundaries

of a cosmos





that is mostly a lockup,

a confinement.

It’s always the place

of our encroaching

miscreants and demons.

In his (your Charlie, not hers),

he just doesn’t want you

to be blasted by the haboob

of catastrophe

he’s convinced will sweep





in with them,

in the same way

he doesn’t want you to be shot

to death

(presumably by a gang

of Chinese or Korean violists)

near the Art Institute lions

or the Bean.

It’s the last gift of his Isora

toxicum ex machina





all spectrumy madness

and rooted

in a bitterness crying out

for magic to set it right.

Near the end, I think

maybe everyone puts





all their chips on magic.

Atheists and foxholes, &c.





Mozart met him

(her Charlie, not yours)

I guess in Paris?

and thought

he and his brother Anton

were degenerates.

Maybe they were.

On the other hand,

think about how

it’s just about that time





he becomes so

painfully aware

of the limitations

of his own voice.

He’s hearing something

like that heartbreaking

E minor violin sonata

and realizing the jig is up.

Let’s say all of it is true,

the gambling, drinking,



debaucheries with

doll-like, lead-addled,

Venetian ceruse-covered

deformities in Rococo halls

and it’s then, perhaps,

he first starts to steer into

those bizarre and gorgeous,

exotic, gnostic volumes

full of codes and mysteries

 the illuminated books.





He succumbs

to the temptations of shortcuts

to those high places

he is just realizing

he can’t reach

on his own.

He had no eyes

(how could he?)

for what I think

you’re trying to do.





In the end, I wonder

if it was about gold at all

Maybe more a Robert-Johnson-

at-the-Crossroads deal.

Faust, like Dracula,

or Darth Vader today,





was known to

every schoolchild.





Or think about how

at The Hague, I guess,

they say he performed

with a 12-year-old Beethoven.

That makes him 38.

He’s been clawing at it

for as long as

he can remember,

since Mannheim, a boy

in his father’s shadow,





and doesn’t know

any other life.

Then here’s this scowly child,

this little shit,

who makes him look

like an organ grinder monkey.

But most of all,

I’m thinking about later

at Jena,

nearer the end.





Imagine the scolding

for coming home

to Maria Josepha with

the weird, dusty old book

instead of the table linens

she had sent him for.

After all the confinements

and dead babies

(four in a row—






she might have clutched

her abdomen

and asked for Antonia

to take her away from

“this cloddish old Bohemian.”

No more

Karlchens for him.

With the linens,

they could perhaps

host Gottschald



and secure him something

at the Garnisonskirche

or, at a minimum,


with the children

of that quarter.





Could he not do even

the simplest thing?





Imagine how he might,

for a moment,

have tried to show her

the lush and careful diagrams

and imagery inside,

the green lion

devouring the sun, perhaps,

before feeling the full

descent and compression

of futility and shame.





Her vitriol for his,

a ritual of purification,

Visita Interiora

Terrae Rectificando

Invenies Occultum


He would have taken

his medicine.

Such a magic beans

situation for the old boy.





I’m coming around

to understanding that

the messy is where

compassion lives.

The dirty as

I think you call it.

It’s not going to be

an easy path, obviously.

It’s like listening

to a child squirming





and not quite holding

it together at a funeral maybe?

The live person

on the outside.

That’s going to be

where the real sorcery happens.

That’s the story,

I think. A blind fiddler

in a tavern playing

Voi che sapete.






I’m proud of you.

You’re doing

something interesting.

How many of us

can say that?





I mean I. You know.

Biggest fan.





BIO: Greg Sendi is a Chicago writer and former fiction editor at Chicago Review. His career has included broadcast and trade journalism as well as poetry and fiction. In the past year, his work has appeared or been accepted for publication in a number of literary magazines and online outlets, including Apricity, Beyond Words Literary Magazine, The Briar Cliff Review, Burningword Literary Journal, Clarion, CONSEQUENCE, Flashes of Brilliance, Great Lakes Review, The Headlight Review, The Masters Review, New American Legends, Plume, Pulp Literature, San Antonio Review, Sparks of Calliope, and upstreet.