Fred Everett Maus – Aesthetics



Fred Everett Maus is a musician, writer, and teacher. He teaches music classes on a range of topics, for example a recent course on “Music in Relation to Sexuality and Disability” and a recurring contemplative course “Deep Listening.” He is a trained teacher of mindfulness meditation and Deep Listening, and a student of music therapy and object relations psychoanalysis. He has published prose memoir and poetry, for instance in Citron Review, Palette Poetry, Roanoke Review, and Vox Populi. He lives in a house in the woods north of Charlottesville, Virginia, and in Roma Norte, Mexico City. The Oxford Handbook of Music and Queerness, which he co-edited with the late Sheila Whiteley, has just been published. Portrait of Fred Everett Maus by Jon Montoya.


the rooster you drew
that morning crayon
on white paper your father
said it was beautiful
he would frame it

you cut around the bird
taped it on black paper
it glowed

that afternoon
your father said you
ruined it he would
not frame it now


high school friend his
eyes closed face sunlit
did you love him his
relaxed beauty you
wanted him to be gay
or not to be gay
not to suffer


near the end
the orchestra called
everything into a warm
flood of meaning
so it was all worth it
one floating moment
then gone


the lover who told you
your hair was always clean
who else did he know


what if your
sense of beauty
cannot be trusted


you wondered
what would it
be like to wake up
from your life
and to what


you always looked ahead
or down
then before he left a lover taught you
to look up always
every day the perfect clouds


fog shaded the deep green
black trees edged the world
charcoal sky you
saw nor heard no one

across the hill
other music students
a hundred chattered

silent beauty around you
outside you

self immured numb
still and cold
you told yourself
“remember this”


the music so
tender you thought
of every time you
withheld tenderness
from someone
who needed what only
you could give them


to love the world
to need to know its truth
you felt foolish
confusing beauty
and wisdom


The sun, white as moonlight,
lit the cool gray stones
where my fingertips floated
inattentive, unsettled, like
my thoughts, aglow, vague, like
the clouds, insubstantial, luminous,
like those fears
just around the corners,
like stray mushrooms
after yesterday’s rain, like
those ambiguous things I said
last night and forgot, like
the bright air still as silence

Earlier, I looked around my room,
trying to grasp the unbelievable
reality of my choices. There were
so many things I stole from people
who loved me. Recently,
in an uneasy night, I dreamed
I gave those things away
to a church, and I was frightened.
What if I needed them again?

I am resting, or I am waiting.
Soon it will be evening. Stars
and all that. The sky
will close around me. My flesh
will ebb into soft vibrations.
I will listen for something to hear.
Then my eyes can doze, and my thoughts
can rest, mumbling, unresolved, on
the tousled lives of liars


I needed luminous rooms,
I wanted a discarnate glow
past my smiles and embraces.

The telephone daunted me;
aroused, I
looked for a face.

Where are you? Help me
now, my lover.
I will lie down, I will
close my eyes, talk to me.
Or I’ll pause at the window,
my gaze restless on
the scrim of tattered haze,
the moon’s ridged face,
a trace of blood in the west,
the oblique sheen of traffic.
Say my name. I know your voice.

My Father’s Notes

My father would play
piano chords, strong and hard (his fingers
so thick), after each chord

a pause,
then another chord, as though it was
hard to find a way from one

to the next—the sounds almost
making sense, almost connected but
not music, as though my father
wanted to remember something
deeper than music,

this going on for maybe
five minutes, my father
never showing the simple pleasure
music might give, and finally
he would stand, wander away,
as though whatever he forgot
wasn’t at the keyboard after all, but
might turn up somewhere else.


My mother on violin, my father on bass clarinet,
I on piano, we played Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven.

Each composer made his piano the beloved prince,
supported and adored by the others.
My mother and I exchanged melodies,
my father and I provided ground.


A scant snowfall: little pieces of white paper
around the edge of every room, on window sills,
bookshelves, the living room mantle, filing cabinets,
the music cabinet, next to the television,

my father’s handwriting firm, upright, almost calligraphy,
almost affected, utterly legible—

should I read them? invitations
to know him better, warnings not to try?
Soon he would collect them,
put them in a cigar box, start over.

When he died, I asked my mother
where the little messages were. They were
gone, she threw them away, “there were
a lot of them,” she said.

I can’t imagine growing up
without that scatter of half-secrets—

“I cannot protect my family.”

“There is never enough time.”

“My children do not know
how I feel about them.”

“My wife will never accept
or understand my bitterness.”

“There is no way to say
what has happened to me.”

My Dead Mother Looks at the World

Muddied color in a metal frame,
two years of dementia, she has fallen silent.
Through too-big square glasses her eyes
glaze bewildered on a disordered world.
Neither of us knows the other.

Another photo, faded brown, darkened yellow,
edges frayed, a bird-dog and a child. The dog
gazes out, sedate, waits. White dress, spiraling
curls, too-big bow on her head—a fairy tale.
But she is wary: a half-smile, eyes alert, as though
she wonders about what has not yet happened.

One more, in her forties, our
living room, she plays chamber music,
her profile cameo-confident. The image
fills me with the sound of her violin, firm
refusal of drama, emotion bounded by grace.
This woman I wanted to be like, wanted
to be, looks at a page of music.
I see her but she
looks away,
as she did when my father
tried to talk with her, as she did
when I was confused or sad.

©Fred Everett Maus