Thursday, October 23, 2014



by Harvey Shapiro
I am still on a rooftop in Brooklyn
on your holy day. The harbor is before me,
Governor's Island, the Verrazano Bridge
and the Narrows. I keep in my head
what Rabbi Nachman said about the world
being a narrow bridge and that the important thing
is not to be afraid. So on this day
I bless my mother and father, that they be
not fearful where they wander. And I
ask you to bless them and before you
close your Book of Life, your Sefer Hachayim,
remember that I always praised your world
and your splendor and that my tongue
tried to say your name on Court Street in Brooklyn.
Take me safely through the Narrows to the sea.

"Psalm" by Harvey Shapiro, from A Momentary Glory. © Wesleyan Press, 2014. Reprinted with permission.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Perfect Poem for Me

You'll see why.

A Hundred Years from Now
by David Shumate

 I'm sorry I won't be around a hundred years from now. I'd like to
see how it all turns out. What language most of you are speaking.
What country is swaggering across the globe. I'm curious to know
if your medicines cure what ails us now. And how intelligent your
children are as they parachute down through the womb. Have
you invented new vegetables? Have you trained spiders to do your
bidding? Have baseball and opera merged into one melodic sport?
A hundred years....My grandfather lived almost that long. The
doctor who came to the farmhouse to deliver him arrived in a
horse-drawn carriage. Do you still have horses?

"A Hundred Years from Now" by David Shumate from Kimonos in the Closet. © University of Pittsburg Press, 2013.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

RIP, Pete

This song makes me cry.

I saw him in concert once when I lived in Tucson.  Gosh, but he had a way of getting people to just SING.  Rest in Power, good man.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Lost to the World

Dame Janet Baker.  My goodness but this is stunning.

German/English text here.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

O Sweet Spontaneous


O sweet spontaneous
earth how often have

               fingers of
prurient philosophers pinched

, has the naughty thumb
of science prodded

         beauty                  how
often have religions taken
thee upon their scraggy knees
squeezing and

buffeting thee that thou mightest conceive

to the incomparable
couch of death thy

              thou answerest

them only with


"5" by E.E. Cummings, from Complete Poems 1904-1962. © Grove Press, 1994.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Immigration Action

Sometimes (often) I am overwhelmed by who/how She calls me to be in the world. 

Livestream video of immigration action here in Denver yesterday, which included the arrest of several friends.

Video streaming by Ustream

Thursday, September 26, 2013


"Did you know you sound like that?"

"I've been practicing."

The Top 10 Opera Lyrics, as sung by...

Turn Me Into Song

This is what was bequeathed us:
This earth the beloved left
And, leaving,
Left to us.
No other world
But this one:
Willows and the river
And the factory
With its black smokestacks.
No other shore, only this bank
On which the living gather.
No meaning but what we find here.
No purpose but what we make.
That, and the beloved’s clear instructions:
Turn me into song; sing me awake.
~ Gregory Orr ~
(How Beautiful the Beloved)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I Posted This Before, But Still...

What I Have Learned So Far
Meditation is old and honorable, so why should I
not sit, every morning of my life, on the hillside,
looking into the shining world?  Because, properly
attended to, delight, as well as havoc, is suggestion.
Can one be passionate about the just, the
ideal, the sublime, and the holy, and yet commit
to no labor in its cause?  I don't think so.
All summations have a beginning, all effect has a
story, all kindness begins with the sown seed.
Thought buds toward radiance.  The gospel of
light is the crossroads of -- indolence, or action.
Be ignited, or be gone.
~ Mary Oliver ~

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Two of My Favorite Things

...those two things being postcolonial theologizing and opera!  Here is a postcolonial look at Rossini's Armida, which also references the Met's 2010 production with Renee Fleming that I wrote about here: "Armida: Bel canto’s Big and Tenor-Heavy Love Affair with Crusade and the Ever-Luring Trope of Oriental(ist) Exotic," by Dr. Kristine Suna-Koro.

You might note some similar points being made...though the author does not seem to be as distracted by certain buttons as I was!  Here's a taste:

The third act consists of a melodious damage control operation to save Rinaldo from the web of Armida’s enchanted parallel universes which are everywhere and nowhere in particular. Crusaders Carlo and Ubaldo find their way to the enchanted island and, an onslaught of nymphs notwithstanding, conjure up a convincing rational argument for Rinaldo to return to his senses, his duty, his war, his masculine self-determination, and willpower. Still hesitant, Rinaldo is finally dragged out of the world of delights by his faithful warrior friends. Invoking God’s goodness to defeat his sacrilegious love for Armida, Rinaldo agonizes over which path to follow–love or valor. Predictably, passion for combat and glory rather than love wins. Armida appeals to Rinaldo’s love and compassion, and ultimately offers herself as a human shield for him on the battlefield presumably against her own compatriots to be able to stay together. But even such an offer would not persuade Rinaldo and company, and Armida is left behind to face the (fervent) music of her own struggle between love and revenge. Having been wronged, Armida’s sense of indignation wins. The opera concludes with a musical fury that sweeps away the palace of unrequited love and offers a splendid vendetta scene where, for once, the woman does not end up dead but expresses her rage to the fullest while treating the listeners to a Rossinian variation on theme of revenge comparable to the fierceness of Mozart’s “Der Hoelle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen” from Der Zauberfloete. In light of Catherine Clément’s trope of the “undoing of women”2 in opera, one can conclude that perhaps a vengeful but alive woman is better than a woman done in by the joined forces of patriarchal cultural and religious constructs as one can see again and again in the world of opera–and elsewhere. And off to hell–whatever and wherever that might be–Armida goes while denouncing Rinaldo’s cruelty in the fireworks of coloratura.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Thought For The Day

"People who go about seeking to change the world, to diminish suffering, to demonstrate any kind of enlightenment, are often as flawed as anybody else. Sometimes more so. But it is the awareness of having faults, I think, and the knowledge that this links us to everyone on Earth, that opens us to courage and compassion. It occurs to me often that many of those I deeply love are flawed. They might actually have said or done some of the mean things I’ve felt, heard, read about, or feared. But it is their struggle with the flaw, surprisingly endearing, and the going on anyhow, that is part of what I cherish in them."

Alice Walker

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Mad Love

The madness of love
is a blessed fate;
and if we understood this
we would seek no other:
it brings into unity
what was divided,
and this is the truth:
bitterness it makes sweet,
it makes the stranger a neighbor,
and what was lowly it raises on high.

 Mystic Hadewijch of Antwerp

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Oh Hai! I'm Still Here!

I know, my postings for a long stretch now have been few and far between.  Some of it is just due to a full life.  Anyway, I ran across this "Gramilano Questionairre" that Joyce DiDonato responded to, and I thought it would be fun to answer the same questions.  Now Joyce (who, by the way, I adore) and I have something in common, haha! You can see if we have more in common by reading my responses below, a rather long post to make up for not posting for a while.

So here it goes:

When Did You Start Singing?

Have I told this story?  My first memory is of singing the refrain of "Angels We Have Heard on High" not long after I had an emergency tracheotomy when I was about 2 and a half.  It happened right before Christmas, hence the carol I suppose!  I was alone in the room so there is no way it can be anything other than my memory:  singing the "gloooooooooooooooo-ri-a" and feeling the air whistle through the still-healing hole in my throat.  I assume I actually started singing earlier than that of course, but I really love that this is my first memory.

Why Did You Start Singing?
Well as the story above suggests, I don't recall.  I suppose I started singing because I was sung to by my very musical parents.  I know they sung to me and made up words to lullabies and other songs for me (and my brothers later).

Which Singer Most Inspired You When You Were Young?
Beverly Sills.  I remember seeing her on TV in "Daughter of the Regiment" when I was no older than 8.  For my 9th Birthday my mom took me to see the Met on tour in Dallas; we wanted to see her in "Don Pasquale" but the tickets were sold out; I cried.  Still, we got to see "Tosca" (which I fell in love with...and which starred Pavarotti which meant little to me at the time) and "Tannhauser" (which I mostly slept through).  A few year later, I discovered Leontyne Price on my parents' recording of "Tosca," and Kiri Te Kanawa. 

Which Singer Do You Most Admire?
Well if you pay attention here you know I love Renee Fleming.  In the operatic world also Leontyne Price and Joyce DiDonato.  All because of how they talk about their art and really seem to committed to being real human beings.

In other musical worlds I love the Indigo Girls not only because their music saves me (repeatedly) but also their commitment to justice.

What's Your Favorite Role?
So since I'm not an opera singer I'll answer with the characters I find most interesting and keep wanting to explore, like The Marschallin, or Tosca, or Maria Stuarda (thanks to JDD's brilliant interpretation).  I also cannot stop thinking about Jonas Kauffman's Parsifal at the Met this year, though I am not sure if that is just the character or the whole work itself (including the production) that continues to haunt me.

What role have you never played but would have liked to?
(I love Joyce's answer to this!)  Well obviously I have not ever played any, so I guess the choice is wide open.  Off the top of my head, I'd say Tosca, and Octavian.

What's Your Favorite Opera to Watch?
I will always go see Tosca, Rosenkavalier, the Ring, and Parsifal if I can (I can't always, but that's a different question).  Or anything with Fleming, DiDonato, Susan Graham, or Kauffman.

Who Is Your Favorite Composer?
I can only choose one?  Surely not.  It kind of depends on my mood anyway.  These days, I have been listening to Beethoven symphonies, Wagner's "Wintersturmme" to the end of Die Walkure Act 1 (Kaufmann and Westbroek from the Met...I know, totally random, it puzzles even me) and Vaughn Williams' "The Lark Ascending."  (Interspersed with Indigo Girls, Pink, and Patti Griffin).

Who Is Your Favorite Writer?
Well I have all of Barbara Kingsolver's books on my shelves, so that is a good guess.  Dorothy Sayers, Mary Oliver, Toni Morrison...

Who Is Your Favorite Theater or Film Director?
Well, Francois Girard was the director of the Met's Parsifal this year, and I can't stop thinking about it, so maybe that would be one.  Otherwise, Alfred Hitchcock.

Who Is Your Favorite Actor?
Meryl Streep.

Who Is Your Favorite Dancer?
I don't really follow dance so I can't say.

What Is Your Favorite Book?
This is like the "favorite composer" question!  One would be Dorothy Sayers' "Gaudy Night."

What Is Your Favorite Film?
"Fried Green Tomatoes" and "Rear Window."

Though currently this is making me very giggly:

I do have quite the silly side, really.

Which Is Your Favorite City?
Antigua, Guatemala.  Also getting pretty fond of Denver.

What Do You Like Most About Yourself?
I put my wicked smarts in service of making the world a better place.

What Do You Dislike About Yourself?
When I don't tend to my fears which leads to overworking to compensate which leads to um let's just call it grumpiness.

What Was Your Proudest Moment?
This is not a moment per se, but all the hard work I have done on myself, both in terms of personal healing and growth as well as what my commitment to justice looks like in the world, in the aftermath of this moment, which broke me apart in just about every way possible and so much of it (almost all of it really) unforeseen that day.

When and Where Were You Happiest?
I am pretty darned happy right now, and full of gratitude for that.

What or Who Is The Greatest Love of Your Life?
My cielo, above all else but the baffling romance with the Divine.

What Is Your Greatest Fear?
Disappearing or having no signifance.

If You Could Change One Thing About Yourself, What Would It Be?
Actually I am pretty happy with me.  Not that I don't have stuff to tend to but I am tending to it, and growing as a result, so you know, I'm happy actually.

Here's a poem by Anne Sexton:

There is joy
in all:
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook
each morning,
in the outcry from the kettle
that heats my coffee
each morning,
in the spoon and the chair
that cry "hello there, Anne"
each morning,
in the godhead of the table
that I set my silver, plate, cup upon
each morning.

All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
each morning
and I mean,
though often forget,
to give thanks,
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.

So while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning,
lest it go unspoken.

The Joy that isn't shared, I've heard,
dies young. 

Yeah, that.

What Do You Consider Your Greatest Achievement?
Hmm.  That I live a life that feels authentic to me.

What Is Your Most Treasured Possession?
My Raggedy Ann, and my worn copy of T. S. Eliot's "Four Quartets."

I should also add my car, the faithful Towanda, nearly 21 years old and just having past 200,000 miles.  She has gotten me everywhere I have needed to go.

What Is Your Greatest Extravagance?
Taking myself to the opera.  And books. And music.

What Do You Consider the Most Overrated Virtue?
Success as defined in capitalistic terms.

On What Occasion Do You Lie?
Joyce says, "I have lied when I mis­takenly think it will make the other per­son feel better." I have done that and it never works, so I am working on honesty instead; even though it's lots harder, it's better in the long run.

I will, however, protect the truth when necessary in situations of injustice.

If You Hadn't Been A Singer, What Would You Have Liked To Be?
Well I am NOT a singer, but what is funny that if I weren't what I am *now* (the Fierce Good Reverend of the Revolution), I think I would want to be a singer (the 3rd Indigo Girl, I always say). So there!

What Is Your Most Marked Characteristic?

What Quality Do You Most Value in a Friend?
Honesty, tenderness, forgiveness, humor (a way of saying, I value a friend who is ok with me being fully human...and is ok with being fully human with me).

What Quality Do You Most Value in a Colleague?
Commitment. And honesty.

Which Historical Figure Do You Most Admire?
Pretty much anyone who has stepped out of their place in order to do the good blessed work of justice, whether well known like Ella Baker, MLK, or Anne Braden, or on the daily practical level like many of the folks I work with.

Which Living Person Do You Most Admire?
See previous answer.

What Do You Most Dislike?

What Talent Would You Most Like To Have?
Hitting a fastball a long way.

What's Your Idea of Perfect Happiness?
When I am present enough that I can recognize the in-breaking of "perfect happiness." For me it is not just one thing (though chocolate comes close).

How Would You Like to Die?
After a good, long life, surrounded by people I love and music.

What Is Your Motto?
"My only occupation:  Love."  St. John of the Cross