A Message to Po Chu-I
By W.S. Merwin
In that tenth winter of your exile
the cold never letting go of you
and your hunger aching inside you
day and night while you heard the voices
out of the starving mouths around you
old ones and infants and animals
those curtains of bones swaying on stilts
and you heard the faint cries of the birds
searching in the frozen mud for something
to swallow and you watched the migrants
trapped in the cold the great geese growing
weaker by the day until their wings
could barely lift them above the ground
so that a gang of boys could catch one
in a net and drag him to market
to be cooked and it was then that you
saw him in his own exile and you
paid for him and kept him until he
could fly again and you let him go
but then where could he go in the world
of your time with its wars everywhere
and the soldiers hungry the fires lit
the knives out twelve hundred years ago
I have been wanting to let you know
the goose is well he is here with me
you would recognize the old migrant
he has been with me for a long time
and is in no hurry to leave here
the wars are bigger now than ever
greed has reached numbers that you would not
believe and I will not tell you what
is done to geese before they kill them
now we are melting the very poles
of the earth but I have never known
where he would go after he leaves me
From this week's New Yorker.
I had a very enjoyable day -- lunch with vertigo66 at The Corner Bakery, a couple of brief stops while in that area to return some things at Target and buy a gift, home to get some chores done, then dinner which apaulled decided should be Welsh rarebit in honor of St. David's Day. Then to further celebrate Celtic culture we abandoned our children and went to see my two favorite local folk groups performing at an Institute of Musical Traditions concert at St. Mark's Presbyterian Church -- IONA and Ocean. I assumed they would do separate sets, so I was doubly delighted when IONA joined Ocean's quartet on the last several songs. Stylistically, they're quite different -- the musicians in IONA all play multiple folk instruments (sometimes at the same time) and they often have a Celtic dancer with them, as they did tonight, while Ocean has an electronic keyboard and a more contemporary ethereal sound -- I love them both but I never thought about how they'd sound together before, and they sound fantastic.
IONA went on first, performing songs from all over the Celtic world -- Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany, Galicia -- woven together, so that an English song and an Irish reel might be played together with a Spanish dance in a tempo that works with banjo and fiddle. They had Kathleen Larrick with them performing Irish step dances and an original modern dance to one of their songs, plus they had the audience get up and dance around the hall (where at the intermission there were very good brownies for sale). Ocean didn't bring the full orchestra to this concert -- it was Jennifer Cutting, Lisa Moscatiello, Rosie Shipley and Bob Mitchell on keyboards, lead vocals/guitar, fiddle and bagpipes respectively -- and they did many of their seasonal/wishing for spring songs, including the Green Man song with Steve Winick in costume. It was really a lovely evening.
...and had dancer Kathleen Larrick performing along with Chuck Lawhorn, Bernard Argent, Barbara Ryan and Jim Queen on bass, wind instruments, bodhrán/bouzouki/lead vocals and fiddle respectively.
IONA always encourages their audience to get up and dance too.
Jennifer Cutting got into the line as it went around; we saw Jody Marshall (whom we often go to hear on hammered dulcimer) in the audience too.
Here are Jennifer, Lisa, Rosie and Bob performing a reel at the beginning of their set.
Steve Winick and several other musicians joined in for the Green Man song...
...and for a song from the Isle of Man in Manx.
At the end of the concert, Ocean and IONA together played several traditional songs.