Opus number: op. 100

Title: Summer: The Fragrant Pathway of Eternity, a song cycle for soprano and guitar

Text: Elizabeth Kirschner

Texts: click here



The hummingbird’s shimmer
looks hand-painted, her iridescence
is the glaze of a god all over
her body. She knows there’s
sweet wine in the deep-throated
flowers and if she thought to think
she would believe that of us, too.
She is a whirling ecstasy—wing-
blur blues the swooning air, her pip
is the sound of a pebble  trembling
in a slow-moving stream. I want to say
her flyways give me guidance
while I endure the vanishing dew,
the vanishing you.


Solitude entombs me until I’m stranded
like a bird the gods don’t  see because
no love is high enough to touch the soul
in which I hide. You trellis me
with moonvine under clouds sulking
like old gardenias while I ask God
for ruin and neglect, for poverty
and disintegration, for existences lived
in heavy isolation. I watch
a damselfly flit in leafy water, how
she vibrates in the breeze as though
it were a torrent—o dear God,
pardon us unto peace.


At the bottom of the garden is a gate
you must close to come through fully:
behind, all behind are fever blooms—blooms
red as my red-hot blood, snowdrops
like tiny candlesnuffers, witch hazel blazing
like yellow cornmeal and childhood elongated
like caterpillars silked inside satin green cocoons,
finger-dabs of rain. Every gate is
a crucifixion—the sparrow of the heart
wing-spanned by nails. Every tomorrow is
a maybe—trees tighten their belts,
birds sharpen their beaks while mute
cellos moan about heaven-sent sea scent.


The sudden surge of the dock
as it thrusts from the pier,
dragging seaweed like a Spanish mantilla.
The chop, chop, chop of the river slumming
substance into a fireworks of atoms, molecules
melting in the dressing rooms of the dead—
o moonless broken sky bridge.


Deepened by loss, blue psalms
slip through my bones and the breezes
become guides. Even the seashells
weep, trees rent their leaves
and the roots of flowers become
black knotted rosaries. The fragrant
pathway of eternity ripples through
this inglorious life while death’s
drama grandly unfolds with
multiplying shadows, but I am
not schooled by them because of
the solace in ringing lights, in the aching
pulse in the sea’s green veins, solace
in the smoking relics and earth’s
velvet purse enlightened by a streaming
sun which shines in spite of everything.

Date written: 2009

Length: sixteen minutes

Premiere performance: May 19, 2011, Erin Holmes, soprano, John Muratore, guitarist, Brown Hall at New England Conservatory

Subsequent performances:

Program notes: These song cycles represent my four-part work called The Seasons, op. 101. Each of the four song cycles contains five songs and can be performed on its own. Fall: Autumnal Raptures, written in 2006 for tenor and harp, was especially conceived for Thomas Gregg and Emily Laurance. Winter: Exaltations of Snowy Stars is for mezzo-soprano and piano and was written for and first performed by D’Anna Fortunato and myself in January of 2008; here it is sung by Bethany Tammaro Condon. Spring: In a Garden of Dreamers, was written for Phillip Lima in the fall of 2009 and is scored for baritone and harpsichord. The final set Summer: The Fragrant Pathway of Eternity, is scored for soprano and guitar.

The most important element uniting these works is their common poet, Elizabeth Kirschner. Elizabeth’s poetry inspired each song in ways that I cannot consciously explain–nor would I wish to if I could. The poems are profoundly intimate, refreshingly free of pessimism, and vividly imagistic. Most importantly, perhaps, is that they clearly originate from a determining artistic personality that feels perfectly suited to my own.

Recording: Erin Holmes and John Muratore, Larry Bell: In a Garden of Dreamers, Albany Records (1308/1309)