Inspired by Monteverdi’s Vespers
The conductor says ‘when you finish you are more alive’,
and I want to tell him Yes, I know, Raphael Pichon –
a whole life more – and how the Vespers of 1610
was the music-tape of labour in Coventry in 1990
and opened such a height in our narrow terraced house
I could see Earth from the Moon – our planet in its blue mantle
glittering with long tongues of welcome for our child – O Surge,
surge, amica mea! – unfurling in that stretch of distance.
Call it hormones, call it gas and air – the midwives knew
the score – but for me it was Monteverdi’s music leading in stately,
intricate steps through wide fields of dew and meadow flowers,
for every stab of fear or cry of pain, acknowledgement, response.
Traces of cloud burnt off from the face of the world, leaving the City
a blaze of gold, its domes and steeples gleaming. The singing
from our little tape machine spilled from St Marks into all the streets
and squares of the known Universe. It breathed so steadfastly,
each voice centred, full of energy and trust, fluent and resourceful.
And listening to the Vespers from the Albert Hall, a Summer evening
in a quiet house four and a half centuries after Monteverdi’s birth,
and my own children grown, it’s here again, as clear –
this acoustic moonshot of Earth, Monteverdi grasping our whole journey,
its distances and closeness. Love; a child’s first gasp of air,
and after it, how to keep on growing more alive.