“What was he doing, the great god Pan, down in the reeds by the river?…”

Sometimes some poem stays in us for years, to decompose slowly. So it was with The Musical Instrument by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, decomposing in me for years. I had read it when I was in high school. It is about the making of a musical instrument from the reeds of a river, or rather how we are hollowed through and through by the experiences of life that we may become a channel for the music to flow through us. While all this happens, even if we know and understand what is happening to us, the one hollowing us sure feels like a half-God.

A few years back I wrote a poem that was directly inspired by Elizabeth Browning’s poem.


i have no endeavors no more
i’m ready now to be hollow
black and decomposed
sometime someone will see and say
oh what a beautiful flower!
aah, what a silly joke.
did you see the rich compost?
creeping worms in filthy stench
where does the lotus grow?
how do the juicy berries grow?
i am ready now to be hollow.

And now, I invite you to enjoy the masterpiece – A Musical Instrument by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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