Friday, April 22, 2011

The Musician

A memory of Kreisler once:
At some recital in this same city,
The seats all taken, I found myself pushed
On to the stage with a few others,
So near that I could see the toil
Of his face muscles, a pulse like a moth
Fluttering under the fine skin,
And the indelible veins of his smooth brow.

I could see, too, the twitching of the fingers,
Caught temporarily in art’s neurosis,
As we sat there or warmly applauded
This player who so beautifully suffered
For each of us upon his instrument.

So it must have been on Calvary
In the fiercer light of the thorns’ halo:
The men standing by and that one figure,
The hands bleeding, the mind bruised but calm,
Making such music as lives still.
And no one daring to interrupt
Because it was himself that he played
And closer than all of them the God listened.

~ R.S. Thomas

This poem first came my way via a Jesuit friend and spiritual director, who sent it to me during some of my darkest days.  (This morning it appears here.)  He's in town this week, celebrating the Triduum masses at the Carmelite monastery, and that's where I went last night.  

Note to self: The first year, I made it halfway through an Easter vigil service and left.  Resurrection seemed far too improbable, and real life in the face of that improbability was too painful to contemplate. Last year, doing my field education, I survived several services over the course of the week-end in a state of numbness.  No idea what I was doing there, until that note a few months later from another mother with a son lost to suicide, telling me that she was helped by the knowledge that my experience of the holidays over the course of the year paralleled hers.  Last night:  a homily on memory, reverence, and service.  I am, finally, open to all of them, and to the Love at their source.  It seems that perhaps God listens most intently to each of us when our music is that of anguish.


  1. I'm helped too - Even though I'm dealing with the death of my mom from cancer and not the same situation you face.
    The whole of Holy Week seems unapproachable. Good Friday is too much death - I have enough of that and don't want more right now. And Easter is much too happy/resurrection oriented. I can't seem to find a place in between that sounds okay to me.

    For some reason Christmas was brutal, but easier to experience than Easter.

  2. ajowen, your last sentence so reflects my experience.

    I am very sorry about your mother. Such a terrible loss and no, it takes a long time to find the place where it fits.

  3. The poem is wonderful, Robin, thank you.

    And it really has been a gift and an honor to be able to read along through your years. Thank you so much for letting us see both you, and God, in your life.

  4. Robin - I've found that what I cannot take in is everyone else's experience, and especially their interpretation of what I should be feeling.

    There are a few trusted things I could do. I don't describe it as closing in on myself, but it is a kind of pulling up of the cloak hood that I see the monk's do in prayer and contemplation.

    Your blog has become like that for me - a hood that I can draw up, and in which I can enclose myself.

    And in the presence of God I can find that space - that "place between" that ajowen was speaking of.

    So thank you once again for continuing to share your journey and for allowing me to focus.

    This is a beautiful poem. I am kind of struck by "the God listened." For some reason that seems so powerful and so true. So human.

    Thank you.

  5. I am touched to hear that this Easter is different for you...easier to bear, easier to hear. And what a gift to feel God's love in it all. It is a privilege to watch your process and know that you speak the truth. Praying for you, your eyes, your call; and giving thanks for all that you have given in this space.

  6. Thanks, all.

    It's strange; sometimes I feel as if I expose rather too much of myself here. But it's a place where the ongoing conversation can take place.