“Moon Over Mater Christi” Live at Rose Street

It was an evening in late September in 1996 when I got the call that a friend had passed away. I knew she had tremendous health issues, and she was supposed to be recovering from recent transplant surgery, but the news still came as a shock.

After I hung up, I left my upper Loomis Street apartment and walked two blocks up the hill to the playground at Mater Christi school, which at that time had a gigantic play fort on which many college-age folks liked to hang out in the wee hours. I shuffled about the empty playground, sobbing, overcome by the injustice of losing such a vivacious friend, an architect with a deep love of art and a now-widowed husband. Squinting at the night sky, I felt this burning in my chest to pick a fight with God.

“Moon Over Mater Christi” is one of those songs that took a long time to write. As happens frequently with me, the refrain came easily, but the verses needed a lot of work.

I made the task harder on myself by choosing to omit any references to death. It’s not that I have a thing against the word. Honestly, it’s just a complete conceit of mine. If you want to write an elegy, the easy and natural thing to do is to mention death and dying in the lyrics; it’s another matter to do it but avoid those words and their common euphemisms. At any rate, it was something I wanted to try, and I hope the emotion isn’t hindered as a result. (I also proposed to my then-girlfriend, Kit, via a song that doesn’t have references to love or marriage. That’s a post for another day.)

I dedicated the performance to Josh Glass, a phenomenal Burlington musician who had just lost his brother the day before. Once more, here’s hoping he and his family can heal.

Moon Over Mater Christi

   There’s a moon
   Over the schoolyard tonight
   Over the stone Virgin’s sight
   Free from terrestrial ties
   Moon over Mater Christi must rise

Summer afternoon
And how you sparkled at your party
I was transfixed by such magnificence

Every rendered room
–Closer to masterpiece than fashion–
Had you on the advent of
Amazing truth

   And there’s a moon
   Over the schoolyard tonight
   Over the stone Virgin’s sight
   Free from terrestrial ties
   Moon over Mater Christi must rise

Like a silken suit
That’s how he fit: The man you married
The mirror’s image to your radiance

And if I needed proof
Perfection and beauty truly happen,
Seeing you both laughing was
The best I knew

   And there’s a moon
   Over the schoolyard tonight
   Over the stone Virgin’s sight
   Free from terrestrial ties
   Moon over Mater Christi must rise

When I heard the news,
Blinded by rage, I stumbled nightward,
As if a child had met with the bully’s boot

It’s a bully who
Tore out the flower from the garden
Unlike an artist, His work is never through

   And you,
   Cut like an April bloom
   Lessons were lost in this school
   But even a swing set can cry
   Moon over Mater Christi must rise

© Copyright 2000-2012 Nate Orshan

“Moon Over Mater Christi” was recorded on Friday, July 6, at the Rose Street Artists’ Cooperative and Gallery Coffeehouse. That white noise threatening to drown out the song is the fans set up to deal with the heat of an early July evening.

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