the sow began remembering

the sow began remembering

It’s throwback Tuesday with this little recording. Two years ago at Christmastime, the poet Elijah Burrell and I recorded “Gabriel’s Message,” and I still like how it came out.


Gabriel’s Message

Vocals: Elijah Burrell, June Gervais

(from a Basque folk carol)


67B813B2-34C4-4088-A861-1C7125E65408This song is a moment between a terrifying divine postman with fire-eyes and a budding woman unaware she is anything much. She is hidden even to herself. He tells her she’s going to conceive and create, in her body, a child who will be a breathing, heart-beating God-with-us. In the original text, she responds: “Let it be to me according to your word.”

I think the angel does something that we artists also can do, in our way, if we care to: With attention to a person, a thing, a moment or place, “reteach a thing its loveliness.” That’s a line from Galway Kinnell’s poem “Saint Francis and the Sow.” I know some may have a theological quibble with the idea that Mary is being re-taught her loveliness, or visited so that she might “flower, from within, of self-blessing,” but I don’t know; doesn’t every blessing come from the same Source, and when Gabriel says in the song, “Thou lowly maiden Mary, most highly favored Lady,” might he not be coupling what she thought she was and what in truth she is?

Anyway, here’s the Kinnell poem, for your pleasure.

Saint Francis and the Sow

By Galway Kinnell

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

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