By Daniel Baldwin
For Mezzo-Soprano, Bassoon & Piano
In 2002, I was considering writing a piece for my undergraduate senior recital that my wife and I could do together, but was struggling with what text to use. I approached an English professor at the college who directed me to another student at that time, Josh Pierce. He graciously agreed to write a poem for me to set to music. While he was writing the poem, I stumbled upon another beautiful poem and decided to use that one instead (The Dream for Mezzo-Soprano, Trombone and Piano). Josh completed the wonderfully written set of poems shortly thereafter, so I put in a folder in my desk until the right project came along and I could do his verse justice. That opportunity came in 2006 when I met my friend, Scott Pool, at the IDRS convention at Ball State University. He was looking for a new piece to program with virtuoso singer, Wanda Brister. Josh’s poem immediately came to mind and, I enthusiastically agreed. In the end, I was confident that the piece truly showcased both singer and poet. This cycle is a tale about humanity, our affinity for the beauty of nature, and our tendency to repeat our mistakes.
Of Flowers and Thorns
Poetry by Josh Pierce
The softly sloping winter hill on which the woman stood; stood softly staring at the crest of snow from which the flower grew.
The flower translucent and frosted with blood, the petals bursting and new;
and the woman’s pale hand as she reaches out to grasp the swollen bloom.
A hand as pale as the snow beneath, and soft as winter’s breath; and her hair so dark, like the blackest night;
a black of nothingness. Formed of wisp she floats along, the hand drifts to the stem; and the spikes from which the flower bursts bite deep into the skin. They prick and sting and she does the same; pulls the flower to her breast;
and only a drop of blood is drawn from the flower’s stinging kiss.
The drop is formed where the hand meets the stem, then gathers at the point below;
it swells, grows heavy and heavily falls to stain the virgin snow.
The sun circles ‘round as the snow melts away and the stain begins to fade.
Soon there is nothing and a year passes by to feel the snow again.
Standing here is the flower’s stem; brittle, hard, and proud.
And in the space where the blood-drop stained the snow, new life begins to move.
From that stain new life is born and beauty blooms anew.
And beside that flower a woman stands; a pale hand to grasp the bloom.
The world turns, a flower wilts, and beauty fades away.
Even thorns fall to the ground and in the ground decay.
Beautiful is the lusty world held by a thinning strand.
And costly is the cup of pleasure held tightly in the hand.
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