Published on Academy of American Poets (

The Final Movement of a Late Quartet

            on Beethoven’s Opus 131 in C-sharp minor

Until the last three hammer strokes batter
through its dense walls with the light of C-sharp major, this

is the darkest music we know and yet
there is no struggle here, no pain,

just death strolling around in some city it made
within us long ago, death’s version of joy,

and even the lilting, major-key second theme
is not some hope flowering over the grave or even

a long last look from our sweetest love,
but rather, death smelling the air in some

garden it planted within us long ago.
Until the last three hammer strokes

batter through with the life of C-sharp major,
no wonder we’re inclined to think

these places are not that important to us—though strange,
and undeniably beautiful—we who sit

with our ipods in the thicknesseses
of late March sun, our lovers creaking the floor downstairs,

deep in the citadel of our years.


From In Someone Else’s House (BkMK Press, 2013). Copyright © 2013 by Christian Barter. Used with the permission of the author.


Christian Barter

Christian Barter is the author of In Someone Else’s House (BkMk Press, 2013), winner of the 2014 Maine Literary Award for Poetry. He lives in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Date Published: 2018-02-20

Source URL: