“Peace on Earth” — a poem by Michael Harper

December 11th, 2014

coltranedec14

John Coltrane

_____

Peace on Earth

Tunes come to me at morning
prayer, after flax sunflower
seeds jammed in a coffee can;
when we went to Japan
I prayed at the shrine
for the war dead broken
at Nagasaki;
the tears on the lip of my soprano
glistened in the sun.
In interviews
I talked about my music’s
voice of praise to our oneness,
them getting caught up in techniques
of the electronic school
lifting us into assault;
in live sessions, without an audience
I see faces on the flues of the piano,
cymbals driving me into ecstasies on my knees,
the demonic angel, Elvin,
answering my prayers on African drum,
on Spiritual
and on Reverend King
we chanted his words
on the mountain, where the golden chalice
came into our darkness.
I pursued the songless sound
of embouchures on Parisian thoruoghfares,
the coins spilling across the arched
balustrade against my feet;
no high as intense possessions
given up in practice
where the scales came to my fingers
without deliverance,
the light always coming at 4 A.M.
Syeeda’s “Song Flute” charts
my playing for the ancestors;
how could I do otherwise,
passing so quickly in this galaxy
there is no time for being
to be paid in acknowledgement;
all praise to the phrase brought to me:
salaams of becoming:
A LOVE SUPREME:

 

 

_____

John Forasté © Brown University


About Michael Harper

Michael Harper is one of America’s most celebrated poets, having received honors and appointments from artistic organizations and academic institutions across the country, ranging from National Book Award to a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is much sought after for poetic readings, guest lectureships, and visiting professorships, and served as the Poet Laureate of Rhode Island from 1988 to 1993, and as Kapstein Professor of English at Brown University.

His poetry is highly influenced by the music he loves: jazz and blues sound through the lines and often appear as inspiration, metaphor or rhythm in individual poems. His poetry is filled with references to his past; history, experience, and family are strong inspirations which reverberate throughout his work. His ancestry, to which he refers frequently, is filled with fascinating and inspirational individuals. Paraphrasing Ralph Ellison, Harper once said: “Relatives are people that you are born into, and have no choice about them. Ancestors are people you choose.” His ancestors live on and their voices can still be heard in the lines of his verse.

From Brown University Library

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Michael Harper reads his poem “Dear John, Dear Coltrane”

Coltrane, Jimmy Garrison and McCoy Tyner play “Impressions”

Read our interview with Michael Harper about John Coltrane, part of our series “The A Love Supreme Interviews

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