they sing together, this random gathering of women,
in rounds, in layers, making fertile harmonies.
ghosts loiter in the halls. spirits hover above
drinking the sound like a marvelous wine from a fine-stemmed goblet.
these women hardly know each other,
meeting once a week in the church’s dining room
down the hall from the sanctuary.
they arrive from their separate directions in their flannel shirts, their yoga pants, their long underwear.
the bitter air clings to them, painting their cheeks and
the tips of their noses. they strip off their outer clothes,
leave their boots in a long line on the metal grate, and pad, barefoot,
to form a circle in the wood-paneled room. within minutes
they are making a sound so exquisite the pastor in his office pauses, resting his hands on his cluttered desk.
the singers are oblivious to the effect, they are sailing on their ocean of sound.
toddlers attending the day care center in the church basement stop crying and wide-eyed,
the tears drying on their cheeks, they smile around the soggy plug of their thumbs.
the women open their mouths and their hearts.
the air dances with the dazzling communion of their spirits.
glasses and bowls in the church kitchen store the vibrations for later
when a handful of congregants will gather to discuss the jangling needs of the world and
unknowingly, draw comfort from the harmony the singers have left behind.
the sopranos, the middles, the altos know nothing of this, or each other.
at the end of their two hours they re-wrap in hats, gloves, coats and scarves;
they pull on their boots warmed by the heat rising from the church’s furnace, and go their separate ways.
but the walls remember, the chairs remember,
and the toddlers downstairs at the day care center
take blissful naps, their little brains electric with harmony.
karen hesse, february 6, 2015
I’ll be reading this poem on November 21st and 22nd at the First Baptist Church in Brattleboro, Vermont as part of the Brattleboro Women’s Chorus’ 20th anniversary concert (I’ll be singing in the concert, too.). The poem, inspired by my first experience singing with a small portion of this large and harmonious group, is no longer true in the sense that many of these singers are “hardly” strangers anymore. If you’re going to be in Brattleboro this weekend, please join us.