Friday, December 12, 2014

Poetry Friday: Mark Doty

I shared this poem back in 2011, and I thought it was time for an encore.  I love the way Doty juxtaposes the sublime music and the very ordinary, familiar performers in this local production of The Messiah. 

Messiah (Christmas Portions)

By Mark Doty
 
A little heat caught
in gleaming rags,
in shrouds of veil,
   torn and sun-shot swaddlings:

   over the Methodist roof,
two clouds propose a Zion
of their own, blazing
   (colors of tarnish on copper)

   against the steely close
of a coastal afternoon, December,
while under the steeple
   the Choral Society

   prepares to perform
Messiah, pouring, in their best
blacks and whites, onto the raked stage.
   Not steep, really,

   but from here,
the first pew, they’re a looming
cloudbank of familiar angels:
   that neighbor who

   fights operatically
with her girlfriend, for one,
and the friendly bearded clerk
   from the post office

   —tenor trapped
in the body of a baritone? Altos
from the A&P, soprano
   from the T-shirt shop:

   today they’re all poise,
costume and purpose
conveying the right note
   of distance and formality. 
 
 

5 comments:

LInda Baie said...

I love that "looming/cloudbank of familiar angels", will send this to my brother and sister-in-law, choir directors who will understand more fully than I. Beautiful, Ruth!

Carol said...

Do you ever read a poem and think, I want to hear the poet read this because I can't do it justice? That's how I feel when I read the Messiah poem today. I want to print this out and spend some time rolling it around in my mouth. I think there is huge truth here about the lowliness of the Abba Father. I don't want to miss it.

Mary Lee said...

I like listening in on the poet's thoughts as he enjoys the concert. And I like it that the sky has such a big part in the goings on!

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Definitely deserving of an encore. I admit, I don't have patience for longer poems like this (I'll never read Ezra Pound, I guess), but I sent it immediately to my Lutheran pastor father because it helped me understand what the Messiah does to him (even beyond what it does to me). One of the best effect of this season is how "inside these wrappings
burns another, brighter life,
quickened".

Julie Larios said...

Doty is just a master of pinning down the luminescent moment, isn't he? You're absolutely right about about how the ordinary and the ethereal converge here. - people and sky. Thanks for sharing it, Ruth.