Hark! I'm called through early dark to join the ancient choir.
To trumpet solar steeds before a chariot of fire.
I summon Dawn with shutters drawn, with sleep stuck in the corners -
Now here she comes, the promised one, still fresh and rosy fingered.
I’ll wake her with a gentle kiss,
whispering sweet nothings into the mist;
At the brown brink eastward springs, through the prisms skyscraping,
a rainbow. Awake my soul to sing.
A step to the street and down the block, downhill along the fence I walk;
Around the bend, down many steps, along the fence, up to the park.
With no entrance I threaten to intrude
because it’s there I see the Spirit brood.
Over the bent world, with warm breast and with bright wings,
the Holy Ghost waves from her post across the black chain links.
But in this oasis prison it’s the desert that’s the fraud;
I barge to where the world is charged with the grandeur of God.
I sit amidst the trees and lift my face;
the Light and choir help me fill the space.
I wrote this poem as an assignment for a poet's group I was a part of about 1.5 years ago. We were to write a piece based on one or more lines in Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem God's Grandeur. As you may see, I actually used several images from GMH's piece:
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs -
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
The line that begins "Oh, morning" really caught my attention because it came at a time that I was trying to #reclaimthemorning - to wake up each day at 6am. There were a few occasions on which I succeeded and I took those opportunities to walk to Jackie Robinson Park, just across the street from my apartment. I walked up to a clearing in the trees, sat on a rock to pray and meditate, and awaited the sun's emergence over the eastward buildings.
GMH's poem seemed to described a scene very similar to that which I experienced at the park, so I decided to put my own spin on it.
At some point early in the conceptualization of the album, I decided that I'd piece together a choir to sing arrangements on a few of the songs (since several of the songs that I wanted on the album explicitly mention choirs in the lyrics). Then one day, while working at Word Up, I stumbled upon a Hymnal for Young People. Of course I had no idea what it contained, but thought I'd peruse it anyway, just in case I found anything worth my while. To my shock and glee, the first hymn in the small pamphlet was titled When Morning Gilds the Skies. Upon reading through a few stanzas, I knew I'd have to use something from this hymn in my own song.
I stayed up into the wee hours one night, picking out a melody from the hymn and crafting the chord progression on guitar. I recorded a rough take on my iPhone and went to sleep. The following morning Zach helped me to record the guitar, vocals, and banjo; he then contributed the drone guitar that comes in at the beginning of the track. The repeated piano lick at the end comes from another song later on the album. This clip features one of the few piano parts on the album that I played myself and it was recorded only to analog tape (the warbles that can be heard as it fades out are 100% authentic!)
The choir, made up of fellow members of Trinity Grace Church, was recorded in my bedroom several weeks after my return to NYC. They were awesome.