I am not a religious person, but I used to be. I mention this only because the closest I still come to religious experience is when I'm running. John Russell, the greatest runner on my junior college cross country and track team, once said in reply to my question of what he believed in, "Running is my religion." I think at the time he equated religion with obsession, but his reply has stuck with me decades after said it, informing my own private mythology.

Running is the time I commune with my dead. Something about the repetition and the pain and my own obsession with time and human limitation puts me into a mindspace that welcomes and is vulnerable to the ghosts and spirits and voices that I don't allow in otherwise: people I've known, writers who've spoken to me, troubadours who've sung me their songs.

This is why I love this song so much. It opens Delmhorst's album Strange Conversation, in which she uses and reacts to the words of poets and composers who have long left us. The song's opening line is a reference to Robert Browning's poetic ode "A Toccata of Galuppi's":

Oh, Galuppi Baldassare, though I never knew your name, thanks to Mr. Browning you are with us just the same...

The rest of the song quotes Browning's ode, with lines like this:

Oh but you you ghostly cricket, singing where the house has burned,...’but what’s left behind I wonder, when the kissing has adjourned? ‘Dust and ashes,’ so you tell me, and I cannot say you’re wrong, still those dear dead dancing ladies with their hair so soft and long stir a little in their slumber, every time we play your song.

Oh, and the music itself is rollicking and gay. I imagine Galuppi and Browning would approve. In fact they whispered as much in my ear on my last run.

AuthorJohn Proctor