Michelina

03:47

Story

This song was born out of a confluence of unrelated and disparate events during the summer of 2007, beginning with the death of my dear friend and mentor Dr. Irma Smith of Chatham University and ending with the terminal diagnosis of my mother Alice who passed away a few months later.

I was thrown for a serious loop and lost my bearings for a while, as if caught in a suspended state of semi-madness that made me feel a little out of control. The poetic testimony of William Butler Yeats perfectly depicts my condition that summer: “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.”

Although I typically do a lot of rewriting and revising during the natural course of my creative process, the bulk of this song just poured out of me one hot, humid night in a cathartic burst of emotion - probably triggered by an innocent but permanently irrevocable miscommunication.

Michelina was a fourteenth century mystic from Pesaro, Italy where she was born into a wealthy family. Upon the death of her only child, she became a lay Franciscan and proceeded to give away all her belongings and property.  Although her family initially believed her to be insanely mad and had her locked up, she eventually went on to found the Confraternity of the Annunciation to care for the poor and nurse the sick.

As a variant of the masculine Michael, the feminine version Michalina is a predominantly Polish name meaning “who resembles God.”

I have an affection, even an admiration for characters who strive against the pressure of social conformity and the stolid inscrutability of real life, often against all odds in the pursuit of their own, inner vision.

Don Quixote, the eponymous hero of Miguel de Cervantes’ 17th century novel and inspiration for the smash Broadway musical Man of La Mancha, defies the logic of the ordinary, mundane world of practical reality to dream “the impossible dream.”

The modern English word “quixotic” actually refers to any action or idea that is idealistic to an impractical or eccentric degree.

In the chapters devoted to the ”Captive’s Tale,” Cervantes broaches the possibility that madness can be an expression of divine inspiration.

Likewise, I have an affinity for the adolescent protagonist in Araby, my favorite James Joyce story from Dubliners about the awakening of a boy who suffers from a youthful malady, infatuation. Caught up in a romantic fantasy and  stirred by his first amorous feelings, he becomes obsessed with his friend’s somewhat older sister and ventures on a quest that takes on a religious-like devotion. The hero of Araby lives a kind of dream and sees what he wants to see until he experiences a sudden, abrupt revelation, what Joyce calls an "epiphany." 

Like the young hero of Joyce’s story, I certainly have my own Araby, my own futile follies. In retrospect, I can recall episodes of naive romanticism when my thoughts or beliefs in something, even with all my heart and soul, didn't make it so.

And like Don Quixote, l have had my own Dulcinea on several occasions, along with my own animating, lofty ideals for better or for worse.

To Each His Dulcinea (To Every Man His Dream)

To each his Dulcinea That he alone can name...
To each a secret hiding place Where he can find the haunting face
To light his secret flame For with his Dulcinea Beside him so to stand,
A man can do quite anything  Outfly the bird upon the wing,
Hold moonlight in his hand  Yet if you build your life on dreams
It's prudent to recall  A man with moonlight in his hand Has nothing there at all.
There is no Dulcinea, She's made of flame and air,
And yet how lovely life would seem If ev'ry man could weave a dream To keep him from despair.
To each his Dulcinea Though she's naught but flame and air!

Lyrics

I was living in a dark age

Had no vision i was sound asleep

Then a ray of brilliant sunlight

From the heavens opened up on me

My black clouds blew away

On the day i met Michelina

 

Like Don Quixote in the old days

On a life quest for love and truth

For Dulcinea he’d fight villains

Tilt at windmills for the love of you

Now i know how he felt

On the day i met Michelina

 

There’s so much i don’t know

Life is a mystery

I was no believer

Now i see a higher plan

I’m a better man

 

Life again is full of wonder

Illuminations wash over me

Like an ancient revelation

I see the beauty that eluded me

I was born again

On the day i met Michelina

 

If you meet Michelina

You’ll love Michelina

Have you seen Michelina?

 

If you meet her

You can’t forget her

Your heart will ache

For the first time

You get a glimmer

Of the eternal

In her soft brown eyes

 

Then she smiles

Your heart throbs

Time stops

Her soul runs deep

You reach a higher plane

On the day i met Michelina