Professor Hesser, Music Lessons

Jupiter Hesser, Piano and Violin, ca. 1852

A painted shingle on the door. Within,
the larger of his ecstasy-machines
grins in its sleep, cradling the violin.
On the table: papers, his goose quill pen.

The slattern still abed. An open book
next to his side. The heirloom cuckoo clock
counts sieben. In the garden, long awake,
Jupiter stops weeding, and rests his back.

Da di di DUM! The tune which only he can hear
organizes the surf between his ears
in a sensible torrent. Notes cohere
like little dancing round black dots and spheres.

Kohlrabi, gooseberries, red cabbage, leeks …
The Chermany he left behind can lick
his hinter. Better to live among blacks
than to sell your soul to Schweinhund Catholics.

But he cannot understand the bigoted:
Some blacks are musicalisch talented.
Great music may grow in a woolly head.
If only they’d learn how to make black bread!

A citizen now, self-named Jupiter Zeuss
Thor Hesser, he calls all gods to serve his muse.
Who knows what symphonies we may produce,
which student take from us somethink of use?


German immigrant Jupiter Zeuss Thor Hesser, a gardener and composer, owned seven lots, which he called “Jupiterville,” in Seneca Village. He composed and published several popular songs.

Copyright © 2015 Marilyn Nelson. Published with permission of Namelos Editions.