This week the management of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra canceled the first two weeks of the season after talks with the American Federation of Musicians Local 3 broke down. According to the Indianapolis Star, the ISO would like to reduce the size of the orchestra, its salaries and annual schedule, all of which could have a serious impact on attracting and retaining world-class musicians.

In solidarity with the musicians, this edition of the Hoosier poets’ blog features a poem from Richard Pflum’s new book Some Poems to Be Read Out Loud. A Depression baby, Pflum grew up in a musical household with his parents, maternal grandparents and an uncle who was a jazz pianist. The uncle’s band would often come over to practice because as Pflum has said, “The concert grand was not portable.” Young Richard would play along with them on his toy drum set.

Now 80, Pflum, an Indianapolis native, has been an active participant in the city’s literary scene for many years. He runs the regular Poetry Salon and hosts the reading series Evening with the Muse at the Writers’ Center of Indiana. He was one of the winners of the Moving Forward contest in 2010, and it’s possible to see one of his poems installed in a bus shelter along Virginia Avenue. He is also a big supporter of the symphony, a season ticket holder in the front row.

Concerto for Silence and the Absent Symphony Orchestra,
with No Soloist, No One Conducting

Now all the chairs and stools are empty: podium,
a varnished plank, no kettle drums to beat,
only a cool negative of absent strings to bow
or pluck after an audience has left with its heat.

Though vacant, the space here is resonant.
Aisles guide us like streets up to where the stage,
a commodious shell on some surfless beach,
roars silence into ears of absent children.

Yet some might imagine the trill of a phantom trumpet
against a shadow oboe’s penetrating reed, the hollow
lull of a voiceless flute. . . an extravagant, outrageous,
dismal bassoon, a French horn’s antiheroic plea.

Now, the applause has finally dissolved into
walls, after real notes have already fled, after
the black piano has escaped into the wings and
the facile soloist is long asleep in his bed.

This poem appeared in Richard Pflum’s Some Poems to Be Read Out Loud (Indianapolis: Chatter House Press, 2012).