“There is a tone to nighttime in all its quiet, misery, and insomnia that makes it louder than the day.” (Audrey Lee on Nocturne)
Audrey Lee is a contributor to Half Mystic’s third issue, nocturne. She is a current senior at The Episcopal Academy in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania and will be attending Franklin and Marshall College this coming fall. She is the winner of the 2016 DeSales University Poetry Contest and her writing has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and Columbia College of Chicago. She has attended the University of Virginia Young Writers Workshop and Ithaca College Writers Institute, and edits her school literary magazine, The Epolitan. Her work has been featured in or is forthcoming from The Claremont Review, Rookie Magazine,YARN: The Young Adult Review Network, Canvas Literary Journal, Moledro Magazine, Blue Marble Review, and Eunoia Review.
We asked three of our Issue III contributors to share with us their personal definitions of “nocturne”: how it is formed, where it has been, what it could be. Here is Audrey Lee’s vision of the midnight drive – the shadow dance – the things leftover when the music fades to black (best read with this mix playing in the background)…
I find nocturne in the buffering of the wind against my car windows as I speed down the freeway at nine o’clock in the evening. It is summer; the arid nighttime atmosphere is a welcome change from the humidity that looms over the concrete and sticks to my skin during the day.
I cry while I drive. Starting off as polite, docile weeping and escalating into gasping sobs. It is summer; I shouldn’t be sad anymore, with the influx of sunlight so the sky is still tinted a flat shade of navy that silhouettes the clouds at nine o’clock. The crying is simply a short break from the generalized misery that accompanies nighttime for me. There’s a feeling of loss of another day as the sun is swallowed by the horizon. And there’s the emptiness of nighttime itself as stores close, streetlights flicker, and the lack of things to do becomes clear. Now only the 24-hour diner and possibly the gas station are open. So I turn on my radio and let the tears be drowned out by the wind and the song that shakes the car to its frame.
When I wrote my piece, "Song of a Storm in Pennsylvania", for Half Mystic, I pulled my inspiration from the thunderstorms that plague summer evenings in my corner of the world, as well as a lake I swam across over Labor Day as summer came to a close and I had nothing better to do in a town with a surplus of shingled houses and a lack of cell phone reception. While my friends were at a music festival, I drove hours north and wrapped a sweater around my shoulders to the place where the mountains cooled when the sun went down. This is a town where a boy that is my neighbor runs the local newspaper and when someone asks where I am staying, I tell them “the yellow house” and they might as well know exactly which bedroom I'm sleeping in. When I bike from the ice cream shop to the lake beach as the sun sets behind a nearby mountain, I fear I am too noisy when I turn on my music from my phone. There is a kind of nocturne here as well.
Everything I pull from memory has music associated with it. These nighttime knowings of places I should or shouldn’t have been, remembrances that mark a high or low, times that resonate as private or shared with another person, all have a nocturne within them, the songs, the sounds, and the moments that tie together in a package I file away in my memory as “night.” Maybe a nocturne is the warm summer air battering my car with a roar. Other times, it is a record I let waft out my open windows. These moments hold their own surrealism. They are defined by a mood, set by equally toned music.
What I associate with night varies with place, time, weather, and much more. When I find myself on an island floating alone in the Atlantic, a windmill echoes across the expanse of shrubbery and beach and through my open window while I try to fall asleep. There’s the violent sloshing of the tides eroding away the coast. Small songs - much like these - are embedded in my memory of what I associate with nighttime, especially in summer.
So when I am crying in a car, or swimming across a lake, or trying to fall asleep, there is beauty within the music that surrounds me. There is a tone to nighttime in all its quiet, misery, and insomnia that makes it louder than the day. This is why there is such thing as a nocturne in the first place: to define the music of the night. I find nocturne to give me solace in a time of darkness, to hold a dream close to myself, and to convert these moments to memories.
Audrey Lee’s poem “Song of a Storm in Pennsylvania”, along with twenty other pieces by contributors and three columns by the Half Mystic team, are compiled in Half Mystic’s Issue III: NOCTURNE, a rich and abrupt volume of work that stretches out through darkness, plucks the strings of night, burns stars into being even in all this black. It is available for preorder now.