Love After Love

Last night was Elena’s junior year recital at Lawrence. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and love (and, I admit, no small amount of pride) as I watched her perform so beautifully.

Elena sang a challenging repertoire that included Straus’ Ophelia leider, two lovely French pieces, and two pieces she has sung before at composition recitals, one composed by a 2013 Lawrence graduate and the other composed by a Lawrence professor.

The last of those, Love after Love, is a setting of Derek Wolcott’s poem by that name. Wolcott once said, “I have never separated the writing of poetry from prayer. I have grown up believing it is a vocation, a religious vocation.”

Gene Biringer, who composed the piece for his daughter, understands it as “a prayer for all of us to find what is deepest and truest in ourselves.” Although I don’t yet have a recording of Elena singing it, here are Wolcott’s words:

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

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