Commissioned by baritone Will Liverman for himself and soprano Renée Fleming with piano accompaniment, Everything That Ever Was sets a poem by former U.S. Poet Laureate, Tracy K. Smith, from her Pulitzer-prize winning collection, Life on Mars. The song imagines a couple negotiating the weight of human history as it relates to their relationship in the present: “Like a wide wake, rippling/Infinitely into the distance, everything/That ever was still is, somewhere/Floating near the surface, nursing/Its hunger for you and me/And the now we’ve named/And made a place of.”
Everything That Ever Was
Poem by Tracy K. Smith
Like a wide wake, rippling
Infinitely into the distance, everything
That ever was still is, somewhere,
Floating near the surface, nursing
Its hunger for you and me
And the now we’ve named
And made a place of.
Like groundswell sometimes
It surges up, claiming a little piece
Of where we stand.
Like the wind the rains ride in on,
It sweeps across the leaves,
Pushing in past the windows
We didn’t slam quickly enough.
Dark water it will take days to drain.
It surprised us last night in my sleep.
Brought food, a gift. Stood squarely
There between us, while your eyes
Danced toward mine, and my hands
Sat working a thread in my lap.
Up close, it was so thin. And when finally
You reached for me, it backed away,
Bereft, but not vanquished, Today,
Whatever it was seems slight, a trail
Of cloud rising up like smoke.
And the trees that watch as I write
Sway in the breeze, as if all that stirs
Under the soil is a little tickle of knowledge
The great blind roots will tease through
And push eventually past.