LYRIC: Foursquare Cathedral


Several poems from Todd's first poetry collection, Yellowrocket, were set as an art song sequence by composer Matt Boehler. The project premiered at San Francisco Conservatory of Music and won the biennial choral composition competition and a National Association of Teachers of Singing 2017 Art Song Composition Award. Published by Schirmer Music. Have a listen.


Here are the poems of Foursquare Cathedral:



Ruin

`

was rumored


to be rooming

up the road

where

a neighbor’s barn’d

burned down.


Their heyday

a payday

away,


Pride,

Ruin’s bride-to-be,


paced our property

in the long


laced gowns

of afternoons,


while Ruin

rode shotgun

in Dad’s old Ford


and pulled the wheel

hard toward

cabarets.


Dad had

work, but

Ruin had ways.



My House Is Small and More Than


a hundred years old. Inside,

the oaken posts and beams

make the living room seem

like a glade. When friends

pronounce it comfortable,

it’s 1910 that comforts them,

and nothing I have done.


There must be a room

in the human heart

that’s older than the body.

And it’s good to be there

in that foursquare cathedral

where nothing has changed

since before we were made.



The Wallpaper


says hello.

The wallpaper

misses you something

awful.

The wallpaper

can’t stop wondering when

you were thinking of

coming home.

The clock’s

moved on.

The sink’s ten

million tears are dry.

Our floors have gotten

over you, or so they

claim

and claim.

The windows

clearly feel the same.

But call me.

Call me

soon, my love,

and tell me

what to say

next time

the fading and

tedious

wallpaper whispers

your

beautiful household

name.



What Yesterday Appeared a Scar


of brilliant green

in the icy lake, today

arcs blue across its face and far.

And where this morning

still is frozen,

coming hours will warm until

the water’s softer

nature’s finally chosen.


Half my life is gone

to others’ business,

which, well done or not, it

matters not but that it’s gone

and won’t be gotten back.


And half my love is wasted too.

Wasted not on you, where all my

deeps and deeps of love

are dammed and so belong,

but on loving you

wrong. My sorrow

is tomorrow’s only season,

and it comes on now


like this late thaw comes

upon the lake,

or like a soft song one sings to sing

the past to sleep,

only to keep it wide awake.



Another Hand


Here—here’s a day—

and here—here’s another,


says God feeling chancy,

says God feeling grand.


Hell—here—look—

a stack of days—a week,


says God nonchalant,

a penny candy in his cheek,


the glimmer in his eye

never giving him away.


Good old God,

he’s a player alright.


Across a blue cloth

as he antes them over


the gold coins shimmer

from his fat black purse.



Yellowrocket (2008) is still available in paperback. Order it wherever you buy your books.



My poems are often called "musical," but some composers find them too musical to set for voice. Matt found a sequence that works beautifully. Stay tuned for more projects in the works with collaborator Matt Boehler.


Todd is grateful to the following for support of his work: Forecast Public Art, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, The Metropolitan Regional Arts Council of/and The Minnesota State Arts Board, The National Endowment for the Arts, The San Francisco Arts Commission, and the Warhol Foundation, as well as individual commissions and supporters on Patreon

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