The Music of Elizabeth Alexander

A Love Like That: Songs of Unconditional Love

Six songs full of wholehearted grace, generosity and awe

Words by Silsbee, Emerson, Hafiz, Alexander, White

Six songs exploring different facets of unconditional love. Springing forth from experiences like a child’s nap, a solitary walk, deep grief, or an awareness of nature’s bounty, these open-hearted offerings pour forth with immediacy and grace.

Songs:
1 Sleep Song (Ann Silsbee)
2 The Eternal One (Ralph Waldo Emerson
3 A Love Like That (Hafiz/Daniel Ladinsky)
4 The Gospel Isn’t Written in the Bible Alone (Elizabeth Alexander)
5 I’ll Tell You a Story, then… (Nancy White)
6 Grace (Elizabeth Alexander)

Details and Ordering Information

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Composer Notes

Composer Notes

I wrote these individual songs over a fifteen year period simply because their poems or themes called to me. It didn’t occur to me until they were all completed that they each reflected different kind of non-romantic love. Gathered together they represent love for children, selfless generosity, gratitude for creation, and most profoundly of all, for our own unruly selves.

Text

A Love Like That: Songs of Unconditional Love

I. Sleep Song

What I love is to slip late at night
into David’s room gaze secretly
down at the soft mask of sleep twitching
with no flush of rage no pout no glee
just the passing in and out of breath
delicately stirring his body
into a hint of motion by which
I know David is living within
safe to love with my whole watching self

Ann Silsbee
© 2002 by Ann L. Silsbee. From Naming the Disappeared (Vista Periodista). Reprinted by permission of Robert Silsbee

II. Excerpt from The Over-soul

It comes to the lowly,
It comes to the simple,
It comes to whomever will put off what is foreign or proud.
It comes as insight,
It comes as serenity,
It comes as grandeur.
Within us the soul of the whole,
Within us the wise silence,
Within us the universal beauty
To which every part and particle is equally related:
The Eternal ONE.

When it breathes through our intellect, it is genius.
When it breathes through our will, it is virtue.
When it flows through our affection, it is love.

Forever and ever, forever and ever,
There is no ceiling between our heads and the infinite heavens.
Within us the soul of the whole,
Within us the wise silence,
Within us the universal beauty:
The Eternal ONE.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, abridged and adapted by Elizabeth Alexander
© 2010 by Elizabeth Alexander

III. The Sun Never Says

Even after all this time
The sun never says to the earth,

“You owe Me.”

Look what happens with a love like that:
It lights the Whole Sky.

Hafiz, translation and rendering by Daniel Ladinsky
© by Daniel Ladinsky. Reprinted by permission of the poet.

IV. The Gospel Isn’t Written In the Bible Alone

“God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees, and flowers, and clouds, and stars.” Anonymous, often erroneously attributed to Martin Luther

The Gospel is written on the trees and flowers, it’s written on the wind and the rain,
Recorded on the rock and sediment and sand.
It’s written on the glory of the far-off sun, and also on the very near,
Inscribed upon the palm of every open hand.
You can hear it in the thunder, you can read it in the stars,
You can find it under every leaf and stone.
On a page wide as a prairie there’s a message large as life:
The Gospel isn’t written in the Bible alone.

The Gospel is painted onto fins and scales, it’s ruffled into feathers and fur,
It’s spun into the seashell’s deep and sacred scroll.
Behold it in the voices of the birds at dawn, composers of the Song of Songs,
Discern it in the Acts of every living soul.
Every pebble holds a Proverb, every spider spins a Psalm,
Every seed’s a Resurrection of its own.
On a page wide as a prairie there’s a message large as life:
The Gospel isn’t written in the Bible alone.

Imagine now, if you were God
Setting forth a Gospel for all you’re worth,
Why would you settle for a single book
When you could write the Gospel on the whole wide Earth?
The Gospel is moving over darkened seas, it’s working in the change and the flow,
It’s written in a tongue we long to understand.
We marvel at the beauty of the poetry encoded in the chromosome,
And braided through the length of every twisted strand.
It is molded into muscle, it is whispered into breath,
It is carved into the curve of every bone.
On a page wide as a prairie there’s a message large as life:
The Gospel may be written in the Bible —
But it surely isn’t written in the Bible alone.

Elizabeth Alexander
© 2009 by Elizabeth Alexander

V. Just Once I Want to Write a Gentle Thing

I’ll tell you a story, then,
of how as I was walking, I smelled something sugary,
elusive, spicy, you could call it,
and smoky in a sad sort of way. Also
like blossom barely born, pale and half-undone
to the wind that still might even be carrying snow,
this scent I decided to follow.
Sometimes I stumbled on the path, silver
with stones worn smooth as kindness,
or had to stop and rest among pines
where the smell settled a little, at home
with their religious and sensuous twang. Other times,
I moved fast, snatching at its mulchy sweet threads
through the air, the leaf and rotten-meat ribbons of scent,
rough tongues of tigers who have recently feasted, the living decay
of happiness, and saddle soap, the lemon urgency of sex,
honey of the air — where did it come from?
I rose panting up the slope, muscles strung on the searching
bow of my body, raised the back of my hand
to wipe away the sweat
salting my lips
and realized the smell —
the smell is me.

Poem by Nancy White
© by Nancy White. Reprinted by permission of the poet.

Imagine now, if you were God
Setting forth a Gospel for all you’re worth,
Why would you settle for a single book
When you could write the Gospel on the whole wide Earth?
The Gospel is moving over darkened seas, it’s working in the change and the flow,
It’s written in a tongue we long to understand.
We marvel at the beauty of the poetry encoded in the chromosome,
And braided through the length of every twisted strand.
It is molded into muscle, it is whispered into breath,
It is carved into the curve of every bone.
On a page wide as a prairie there’s a message large as life:
The Gospel may be written in the Bible —
But it surely isn’t written in the Bible alone.

Elizabeth Alexander
© 2009 by Elizabeth Alexander

Performers

Performers

Premiere: Ruth MacKenzie and Elizabeth Alexander (St. Paul, Minneapolis, Rochester and Mahtomedi, MN)
Amy Darrow and Julie Sherlock (Ludington, MI)
Deborah Berioli (Venice, FL)
Jane Baumer. First Unitarian Church of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
Kris-Anne Weiss and Ruth Palmer (St. Paul, MN)
Laura Fott and Susan Snyder (Nashville, TN)
Marti Mendenhall and Elizabeth Alexander. UUMN National Conference (Madison, WI)
Ruth MacKenzie and Ruth Palmer (St. Paul, MN)
Ruth MacKenzie, Jacqueline Ultan and Elizabeth Alexander. Open Eye Figure Theater (Minneapolis, MN)
Sarah Ponder Brock (Chicago, IL)
Women’s Ensemble of Unitarian Universalist Church of Savannah / Kelly Blackmarr Carlile (Savannah, GA)