Becoming a Redwood

(2003)

"Becoming a Redwood" is the fourth and final song of Laitman's cycle Becoming a Redwood, which sets four poems of Dana Gioia.

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The performers in the audio recording, provided in the player to the right, are Barbara Quintiliani, soprano, and Lori Laitman, piano. Used with the composer's permission. To listen, please click on the track name itself.

Photo: California redwoods, public domain photo courtesy of the National Park Service

Becoming a Redwood

Becoming a Redwood
by Dana Gioia


Stand in a field long enough, and the sounds
start up again. The crickets, the invisible
toad who claims that change is possible,


And all the other life too small to name.
First one, then another, until innumerable
they merge into the single voice of a summer hill.


Yes, it’s hard to stand still, hour after hour,
fixed as a fencepost, hearing the steers
snort in the dark pasture, smelling the manure.


And paralyzed by the mystery of how a stone
can bear to be a stone, the pain
the grass endures breaking through the earth’s crust.


Unimaginable the redwoods on the far hill,
rooted for centuries, the living wood grown tall
and thickened with a hundred thousand days of light.


The old windmill creaks in perfect time
to the wind shaking the miles of pasture grass,
and the last farmhouse light goes off.


Something moves nearby. Coyotes hunt
these hills and packs of feral dogs.
But standing here at night accepts all that.


You are your own pale shadow in the quarter moon,
moving more slowly than the crippled stars,
part of the moonlight as the moonlight falls,


Part of the grass that answers the wind,
part of the midnight’s watchfulness that knows
there is no silence but when danger comes.


(Source: The Gods of Winter, Graywolf Press, 1991)


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