Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Poetry and music

There is a complex relationship between poetry and music, the interplay of language and melody. Of course, the rhythm and sound of language is inherently musical, and Lutheran hymns are built around the poetic text. I want to share a beautiful, meaningful poem from Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac from last week, the poem "Baptism" by Ted Thomas, Jr. It seems so appropriate for the many baptisms we've been celebrating at Bethany lately, and it beautifully depicts the "circle of life."


Cold wind.
I help my father
into the shower
with his good hand
he grips my arm for support.

Inside he sits like Buddha
on a plastic stool
and waits for me
to begin.

I drench him
with warm water,
soap his head, his back,
the flabby stomach,
the private parts
private no more.

I had not before seen my father's
nakedness, nor the changing
contour of his being,
his growing helplessness.

His brown skin glistens
and I think of him
as a young man on the night
of my conception...

I pat him dry,
he lets me dress him
in the white
hospital clothes,
oil his hair,
put him to bed
and forgive him.


  1. Beautiful poem.

  2. that was moving. I wish I had known this poem earlier, as my choir performed a "poetry-themed" concert for senior citizens at Estabrook Rec Center. In between songs like Fame is A Fickle Food by Emily Dickenson, students read their original works, and a couple of already published works. I think this one would have both hit home with the audience and made the students think differently about who their audience really was.

    oh well, I do a poetry theme about every 4 years or so. Maybe next time.

  3. Anyone who has had a parent, or spouse, in a nursing home can relate to this deeply. The care of the elderly is a part of God's work for us that we would rather not think about. Thanks for sharing this poen, and also thanks to all who cared for my dad when he could not care for himself.