The Secret Of The Center Of The Heavens

The Lovers Marc Chagal
The Lovers by Marc Chagall

When, With You Asleep

by Juan Ramon Jimenez
Translated by Perry Higman

When, with you asleep, I plunge into
. . your soul,
and I listen, with my ear
on your naked breast;
to your tranquil heart, it seems to me
that, in its deep throbbing, I surprise
the secret of the center
of the world.

. . It seems to me
that legions of angels
on celestial steeds
as when, in the height
of the night we listen, without a breath
and our ears to the earth,
to distant hoofbeats that never arrive – ,
that legions of angels
are coming through you, from afar
like the THree Kings
to the eternal birth
of our love – ,
they are coming through you, from afar,
to bring me, in your dreams,
the secret of the center
of the heavens.

John Prine Christmas Album – All The Best

There are some years in which the new music of that year is my inner soundtrack. Not this year. This year was one of attrition, music being lost in my life temporarily as I didn’t go see live music, I didn’t buy new music and I boxed up and put away temporarily 99% of the music collection I own in the midst of a long drawn out move.

We lost a few musicians who have brought me joy for as long as I can remember in 2020. John Prine headlines that list. I have been a John Prine fan since my middle sister brought home his album Bruised Orange in 1978 and I loved every song on it. I honestly have bought at least one copy of every album he ever put out and more than one I have bought two or three copies having worn the old ones out. And though not every song was brilliant there was always at least one great song on every album that wormed its way into my heart. I was a John Prine fan when it wasn’t cool to be a John Prine fan. I saw him in concert in small venues, large venues and everything in between. I saw him live in every decade since 1980. I have never seen a musician who could captivate an audience with his story telling in between songs with his gentle humor and smooth growly voice.

I saw him at the Minnesota Zoo after his first round with throat cancer in the 00 years when he was still self conscious of the disfigurement of his face. It is an outside amphitheater, relatively small, seats maybe 500 or so and the warm up act had come and went and we were nearly 45 minutes beyond when the start of his show was supposed to begin on a lovely summer evening. There was beer available, so we were making the best of it, but doubts were starting to creep into our heads whether he was going to show up. And then there was an announcement over the loudspeaker, saying; “John’s Town car from the airport had been delayed in traffic and he apologizes, but before you welcome him with to the stage, would everyone in the audience please turn off and put away your phone as John has asked personally that we respect his wish for no photographs this evening.” Every single person put away their phones. I have been to a lot of events where they made the same request and it is largely ignored. This was different. John walked out on stage with his band, and before he started he stood with his head cocked and bowed, in its crooked position because of the surgery, with his guitar around his neck and he told a story. And the moment he opened his mouth it was clear his voice, although challenged, was the same voice I had heard 1,000’s of times before. It wasn’t the longest set I ever heard him play, it wasn’t the best concert of his I ever attended, but it was by far the most intimate. And as he played his guitar and sang his songs and made music with his band, there was a kinship with that audience that went beyond what most musicians ever achieve; he was singing to his friends and family.

In a year where everything else stood on its head, John Prine’s voice was one of the things that didn’t waver for me. He died of COVID in the spring and his last song that he recorded in a hotel room in London , a short time before his death, wound up being his only number one hit, posthumously. Well, that is, if you weren’t a John Prine fan. He had been making number one hits for me for decades.

Like John Prine, I wish you all the best.

Merry Christmas.

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A Sonnet Obsession

I am a life-long Minnesotan who resides in Minneapolis. I hope you enjoy my curated selection of sonnets, short poems and nerdy ruminations. I am pleased to offer Fourteenlines as an ad and cookie free poetry resource, to allow the poetry to be presented on its own without distractions. Fourteenlines is a testament to the power of the written word, for anyone wanting a little more poetry in their life.

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