Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Music by Anne Porter

I listen to 3 podcasts, all from public radio: Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, The Sunday Puzzle, and Writer's Almanac. My listening time is during my dog's evening constitutional, a leisurely walk around the neighborhood.

Yesterday, in the gloaming, it was Writer's Almanac, from May 1. (By the way, my wife kind of rolls her eyes when I use old words and phrases like that. Bathe, weary, dungarees, in the gloaming - I guess I'm just the child of my grandparents. There's so many rich old ways to say things.) Many of the poems at the end of Writer's Almanac are interesting, or funny, or confusing. Few have taken my breath away, and lead me to worship and wonder, as did "Music" by Anne Porter. Today, looking for the text online, I see that many have taken their cue from Garrison Keillor and are now reflecting on this work of art:

by Anne Porter

When I was a child
I once sat sobbing on the floor
Beside my mother's piano
As she played and sang
For there was in her singing
A shy yet solemn glory
My smallness could not hold

And when I was asked
Why I was crying
I had no words for it
I only shook my head
And went on crying

Why is it that music
At its most beautiful
Opens a wound in us
An ache a desolation
Deep as a homesickness
For some far-off
And half-forgotten country

I've never understood
Why this is so

But there's an ancient legend
From the other side of the world
That gives away the secret
Of this mysterious sorrow

For centuries on centuries
We have been wandering
But we were made for Paradise
As deer for the forest

And when music comes to us
With its heavenly beauty
It brings us desolation
For when we hear it
We half remember
That lost native country

We dimly remember the fields
Their fragrant windswept clover
The birdsongs in the orchards
The wild white violets in the moss
By the transparent streams

And shining at the heart of it
Is the longed-for beauty
Of the One who waits for us
Who will always wait for us
In those radiant meadows

Yet also came to live with us
And wanders where we wander.

"Music" by Anne Porter
from Living Things: Collected Poems. © Steerforth Press, 2006.
Go to this link to hear Keillor read it.

1 comment:

Claudia Gerwin said...

Amazing poetry. Thank you for introducing me to Anne Porter.