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Michael Perry: Moved by sensations of sweeping poignancy

Michael Perry: Moved by sensations of sweeping poignancy


I spent the bulk of the day listening to the music of Ennio Morricone. I’d like to cop a knowing pose regarding his oeuvre but in fact I am not a film buff and went on this listening bender because I read on Twitter that he died. So our days are directed. Based on what I’ve heard so far today, Mr. Morricone was good at summoning sensations of sweeping poignancy, which has been no help at all in getting the chores done.

My susceptibility to sweeping poignancy is one reason it might be best I’m not in a rougher profession, although I know from a few heart-to-hearts with my brother the logger that the tougher trades are not impervious; he just doesn’t spend a lot of time typing about it. That said, last time we chatted, the evaporating pulp market coupled with a strong American dollar versus the Canadian loonie and some related international trade issues had him trending lugubrious. Nonetheless, off he went and sharpened his saw.

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Following on his example, and despite a passage from the “Father Ramirez” theme that plucked my heartstrings like a sad Spanish guitar, or the stretches of “Love Theme” that had me resisting the urge to grab my notebook and run upstairs to write pie-eyed free verse in my room like it was eighth-grade crushes all over again, I curtailed my poignant swoon-time and got back to business with the mundane realities of balancing the checkbook, getting the camp chairs off the lawn before it rained, doing some rototilling, and watering the chickens.

Speaking of which, I am hardly your leading environmentalist but would like some bonus recycling credits for watering the chickens with the five gallons I collect from the twin dehumidifiers in our basement every morning. There is the added health benefit of climbing the stairs while carrying 40 pounds of water. This morning I had a little extra left over, so I tipped it out along the row of sweet corn I revealed last night, which is to say I finally pulled the weeds that were taller than the corn. Had to do it by hand as you cannot rototill weeds that tall lest you are really into round bales packed with clay. Knee high by the Fourth of July, the old-timers used to say, problem being, they weren’t referring to the pigweed.

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Eventually I made it back to the little room over the garage and played some more Morricone. He did run the gamut. It doesn’t all sound like a Clint Eastwood Western. It isn’t all pensive. The cellist Yo-Yo Ma said Morricone thought of music as “energy, space, and time.” That’s about right on. Each track filled my mind and heart with pictures, and how fortunate I felt to peck away at my deskbound tasks in a safe space filled with evocative sound. At a press conference announcing Morricone’s death, his attorney read a statement written by the composer himself: “I, Ennio Morricone, am dead.” As final verses go, that’s tight.

An original “Roughneck Grace” column exclusive to the Wisconsin State Journal. Audio versions may air on “Tent Show Radio” ( Read more from Michael Perry at

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