House and Garden Tales (2005/2006) by Peter Josheff
for bass-baritone, flute, viola, cello, and piano
World premiere

House and Garden Tales, Six Poems by Jaime Robles (2005, 2006) was premiered by Allen Shearer at last year’s Harvest of Song. It is a nine-minute set of miniatures exploring the comings and goings of the animals in the Robles household. The poems are domestic portraits of her chickens, birds and cats, the territory in which they roam and the sounds they make as they go about their daily business. It was originally written for baritone, flute (piccolo), harp, viola and double bass. The in-a-nutshell qualities of House and Garden Tales make it a kind of preamble, a final fling at concision before plunging into the wild passions of the Inferno.

The composer would like to thank Mary Chun and Ellen Ruth Rose for initiating the process that has made this performance possible, and to acknowledge the support and encouragement of Jaime, Allen and Eliza O’Malley, to all of whom this work is dedicated.

House and Garden Tales
Six Poems by Jaime Robles

I. Haiku
Flapping up down flutter, cornered in the eye —a small brown bird
II. Aversion
Yow! grinned cat.
That’s the biggest wingy thing I’ve ever seen.
Chicken raises an open beak from the gritty dirt,
turns her feathery gaze toward cat, and cat,
seeing big-toothed dinosaurs in the history
of her
yellow eye,

III. Desire
Curved in the window of emerging day,
cat attends
to the conversation of birds.
Kekk ka ka kkkkek, whispers cat,
dreaming of soaring
into the pinioned sky

IV. Flourish
4 a.m. Cat enters,
promenades the bedroom
—puhrrrrrruh puhrrrrruh puhrrrrrruh—
and waves his hindquarters out the sliding
glass door

V. Fervor
Chicken runs as fast as she can:
wing tips tucked, feathered trousers, lacy
bobbling. Did she hear the back door open?
Is the cat food out? Cat on the kitchen counter
complains, “Mine,
that food is mine.” Chicken—ping, ping—
keeps—ping, ping—eating—ping, ping—
till—ping, ping—she’s—ping, ping—thrown
out. Whoosh.
Flap flap.

VI. Absence
Under the juniper bushes
gnarled wood
Under the junipers
between ancient branches and feathery
junipers dark, pungent, nested warp of
branch, weft of scaly leaves—
Under feathery dark junipers,
a clutch of green eggs, one broken,
nestled sticky in a mulch of matted leaves,
woody sediment

Poems © 2004 by Jaime Robles.
Used with permission.

— P. J.    

[from program for September 18, 2006 concert]