Beauty’s Birth

Beach rocks jutting up from liquid churn
        Pebbles in the sea.
Cheek bones beneath my lover’s face,
         What are they to me?
Hard things shape and hold in place
         The softness of the earth.
Bones and stones support the shape
        That rends all beauty’s birth.

– John H. Richards

The profundity of this succinct and pithy poem written by my own father haunts me. I cannot walk through sand or hold my children without thinking of its lessons. It is here set to music, a soprano duet, for the occasion of Lucy Shelton’s spring 2010 residency at the University of Oregon. It bears a dedication to my son Beckett, born in January of the same year, and whose bones support both the shape of his beauty and his miraculous birth.

The recording below features sopranos Alli Bach and Juliana Urban. This public premiere took place on April 18th, 2010.


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