David Orr, “Busker with Harp”

Busker with Harp (from Poetry)
David Orr

For a birth

The fact of the harp swells into the air,
Alien and familiar and entirely too large,
An elephant lost in the suburbs,
And opens with its cry a strange passage

Between the harp itself, the fragile harp,
And the almost guilty knowledge
Of the stroke of  luck that brought it here
And the care with which it must depart.


The sun simply rests today. This morning has been a relief from the previous ones, where the thick, hot air made mere breathing a chore. The world seems to have afforded me some space.

Then again, to be born is to be an alien in this world. It is not clear how we fit into the whole of nature. Our cute concept of nature has some grip on how things come to be. Some things, at some times: nature, taken strictly, defines a world other than the one we live in (“according to nature” and “by nature” are reconciled where exactly?).

What asserts itself in birth is unknown and strange above all. Therefore, it has an enormity and – weirdly enough – a familiarity. We all know beggars, we know their cries. Routinely, one feels a tinge of guilt and continues on one’s way. How could they possibly be seen as beautiful? You’d have to see that cry as delicate, temporary, yours.

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