Trinity Pass

Tracks 13- 16 TRINITY PASS (2020)

Music for two pianos | Performed by Michael Shinn, piano I, and Jessica Chow Shinn, piano II

Trinity Pass is a road that snakes its way between the hills of Pound Ridge, NY, where my wife Deborah and I have an antique barn and studio that serves as a retreat from our busy lives in New York City. Over the past decade there, I have had time to immerse myself in the wonders of the woods, and this piece is based on four poems I wrote that attempt to capture some of those observations.

  1. SWOOP

My heart falls with you

As you make your daredevil drop

From nest to ground.

It all happens too fast to calculate.

Unknown to me,

I must believe you will die.

In that division of the secondhand

Lost now in the flight path

Away from the point of impact,

I must believe you will not save yourself.

Why else lose breath?

Why else step backwards

To make room for a tragic end?


Once balance is regained,

I marvel in the beauty of your swoop,

Admire the steadfast attention to your young

As you circle, dipping from branch to branch,

Singing nervously, as if that will make me behave,

Keep me from the ruin of your home.

As it is, I am little threat,

But how would you know?


In that precipitous drop

Do you know the angle of escape by heart?

Or is it an improvisation,

A brilliant misdirection

Fueled by panic,

Tempered by pure aeronautic talent?

I want to reassure you,

Let you know I mean no harm.

But you do not listen,

You circle and sing,

Circle and sing.


  1. BROOM

The tool is temporary –

Disappears with use,

Loses itself to earth,



The surface is temporary, too –

Erodes with time,

Surrenders to water,



The man is foolish –

Shrinks with age,

Aligns with fire,


He is the sweeper of the forest floor

But there is no clearing,

Only a momentary parting

Of the canopy’s afterthoughts,

Enough to see what falls next:

Petal to leaf to seed to nut,

Snow to ice to fallen branch –

Only the rain cleanses,

Only the rain sweeps, too.



a chain of tiny agreements

holds us together

released when those

fragile bonds give way

­all is air

there is no effort in descent

but there are no clear paths either







new resting place, caught,

who has me now?

who holds my changing form

until the next searching breeze

sets me free?


hundreds of upside down umbrellas

perched on as many branches –

whoever thought that trees

only held their own?


perhaps the solitary copper beech

stays pure

the rest of us play catch


the parts of myself i discard

you keep longer than i know

the leaves of you i gather

i won’t let go



Look up – see where there is still sky.


Soon the forest will converge

On all that blue,

Trading the sun high branches for grass.


Years ago a clearing was made,

A neat oval drawn with compass-like precision

Around a barn,

Trees cleared, grass seeded,

Human claim in modest form.


The trees stood at attention,

Eager for their new assignment,

Guarding the clearing,

Standing in definition,

Making place.


Now they bend, the oval closing –

Not from below but from above,

A heliotropic dance:

Hundreds of arms, decked with leaves

Stretch to find the light,

Inch by inch they yearn for discovery,

Year by year they move closer.

Like a circle of Matisse dancers,

They are seen with multiple foregrounds

And in every season,

Still nearer, still in seeming motion,

Fueled by longing,

Time on their side.


And so love of light

Creates its scarcity.

So love of one another

Diminishes freedom.

We grow in our longing

Still closer,

Still reaching,

Ever more tightly knit,

Always longing to touch,

Aching to trade the space between

For communion.

Recorded July 31, 2021 at Schroeder Hall, Green Music Center, Sonoma State University. Audio engineer: Anthony Barfield.

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