Category: Poems

  • It’s always tricky to make your work feel authentic and organic when you’re imposing a rigid “literary device” on it.  I wrote hundreds of poems that never made it into the final cut of WITNESS. That gave me many options while cutting and moving poems around to shape the narrative into something with both flow and internal logic.  I also had poems that extended over several pages. And sometimes a single incident would be seen through several different characters’ perspectives, hence a series of pages looking at the same moment in time. Don’t despair. You’ll find your own way. Good luck with your project!





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

february 8 2015lc 093

I read 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 sang 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.