Stephen Horenstein
Music, Arts and Society

Words and sounds while I wait for the war to end

Waiting. photo by Stephen Horenstein
'Waiting.' (Stephen Horenstein)

Day by day I find the waiting more difficult.  There are too many imponderables.  I awake early and write a poem or two a day.  This clears my mind and makes life easier to bear, even after a morning gorge of news items and three cups of strong coffee.  The dangers to the psyche come from within.  Waiting has its drawbacks. One of them is the feeling of powerlessness, as a passenger on a luxury sail boat which has run out of both wind and petrol.  The arguments amongst our leaders are incomprehensible.  The screaming between “colleagues” is unbearable.  And so my mornings of writing have soothed me and cleared my mind, allowing me to bear most everything.  However this week a friend lost his son and I felt a powerlessness and disgust.  The shiva was painful.  All I could do is give my friend a hug and leave. I had no words.  The following hopefully satisfy.


Have lost some smell in the throes of war,
as flowers fade from sight, leaving oil greasing
sand like ice, dreadful silencing children’s
voices shocking waves at first, then ignored.
Midst leaders puffed with pride, waddling with faces,
gluttons personified, while destruction reigns
above and below desert’s horizon
lined with illusions, one at a time, together
forming lines, reaching the “other” place in time.


“Don’t forget to breathe”
a voice says to me
“lest you forget why
you were born
on this gob-sucker day
to a world gone made”
So the doomsday clock says.
i try to rest but can’t
as bears from heaven
marching to their own beat
smother everything in sight
saying, “rest weary, however
you might, don’t go more
gentle into this good night”

Slow Time

Time slows all too soon.
Take your life in hand
smother it with love
package it with precious wrap
so when you’re finished
it’s well protected
from elements of hate
like a snowball in hell
you’ll fade from memories
however raw and void
however young
so slow’s the antidote
with no go’s frozen cry
won’t haunt you anymore.

Black and Blue

Have you shopped in winter
when skies breathe madness
and doors don’t close?
Steps of care snuggle you
though heat from fans
dry your eyes so their tears
crust inside, your lids
burning the corners of your mind.

Tough Tank

Protected from elements
destroying it’s path, it’s motto
“resilience”, it’s task to protect
unwanted distractions sealed
by a path to a void or adventure
not to be confused with blinders
strung from horses’ brows
telling them “straight” or “slow”,
a lesson to us all, when to scan
and when to blend
with the world chanting “yes I can!”.

In the afternoons, I compose. There are some things that cannot be expressed through words, like the “feeling tone” of a recent multi-layered composition.

Excerpt from a forthcoming album: Sounds of Siday: Side B,   Track 2: “Journey into Fractured Time”, performed by the Castle in Time Orchestra and Lab Orchestra, Composed and conducted by yours truly.

About the Author
Stephen Horenstein is a composer, researcher and educator. His repertoire of musical works has been performed and recorded worldwide. He has been a recipient of the Israel Prime Minister's Prize for Composers and the National Endowment of the Arts (USA) and recently a Mifhal HaPais prize to produce a new album “Sounds of Siday: Side B” (orchestra).. Horenstein's teaching has included Bennington College, Brandeis University, Tel Aviv University, Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance; residencies at Stanford University, York University, California Institute of the Arts, and others. He is Founder and Director of the Jerusalem Institute of Contemporary Music, established in 1988 to bring the music of our time to a wider audience.
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