As a poet, it feels amazing when your words hit the living air – even moreso when they are sung.  It brings me pleasure beyond words that the gifted young composer Leigha Amick set my 2016 poem ‘Unspeakable’ for full choir!


I’m honored to post her recording below, performed by the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, as well as Leigha’s full score, for the musicians among you who want to follow along.

This poem came in a flight of words in mid-2016, as if falling from the air, arriving fully formed in less than an hour.  I love poems that arrive, waiting eagerly to be born.  And for my first piece to receive this aural baptism – it feels like I’m a witness to a piece of eternity.  That is the gift of art – it lives in the world, and beyond it, at the same time.  Like this poem, it’s a gateway into areas unknown.

Love wells in my heart working with Leigha – she has a pure devotion to music, which is for her a way of communing with forces beyond the rational mind.  She wrought such a detailed, deep score here.  Drink deep – I hope you enjoy the brew!

Unspeakable, text: Duncan Horst, 2016.  Music, Leigha Amick, 2016-17, Indiana Jacobs School of Music.


Unspeakable

After a long and unimagined journey,
we stood at the chasm
girding the world’s end.
‘It’s real!’ The world has an end.
‘Here it is!’ we laughed, terrified.

We gaped
At the waterfalls,
Gushing out forever
Wheeling twilight and dawn.

The land
fell away, and we were left
With questions which could never
be answered, defying even
our stammering echoes, who had nothing
To cling to.

Just as I am about to
Turn back, you jump, wailing
over the edge of the sky
And in an unthinking (eternal) second I grab
your leg with my arm and you reach,
trusting there will be no
fall.

My brother jumps after me
Your sister comes too, and her lover
Backwards though he can be, he comes
They all jump, they come, and more jump
Into the abyss until
everyone you’ve ever known has thrown
Themselves over the cliff, beyond reason

And as the last known person flings out
Into the romantic nothing,
Your human drawbridge spans taut –
You have reached the far shore, to that far
Continent, whose shadow is
Unspeakable.

Duncan Horst, 2016