Poem of the Week, by Suzanne Cleary

Yesterday I wrapped gifts and hit Play over and over on a youtube recording of my niece’s choral group singing a capella. I clapped for a six year old friend who had been instructed by his piano teacher to play Jingle Bells (for someone besides his parents) in preparation for his recital today. I read this poem and dug out my old tape –yes, tape– of the Messiah so I could listen to it, but I had nothing to listen to it on, so I youtubed it instead. Then I read this poem and was, for no reason that makes sense, transported back to 8th grade All-County choir, where I stood on the back riser (always the tall girl) of an unfamiliar bleacher in an unfamiliar school, practicing Amazing Grace over and over with no one I knew, the smell of May sun and spring wind and cotton and empty-school-on-a-weekend rising all around us.

– Suzanne Cleary

My husband and his first wife once sang Handel’s Messiah
at Carnegie Hall, with 300 others who also had read
the ad for the sing-along, and this is why I know
the word glory is not sung by the chorus,
although that is what we hear.
In fact, the choir sings glaw-dee, glaw-dee
while it seems that glory unfurls there, like glory itself.
My husband sings for me. My husband tells me they practiced
for an hour, led by a short man with glasses,
a man who made them sing glory, twice, so they could hear it
fold back upon itself, swallow itself
in so many mouths, in the grand hall.
Then he taught them glaw-dee, a distortion that creates the right effect,
like Michelangelo distorting the arms of both God and Adam
so their fingertips can touch.
My husband and his first wife and 300 others performed
at 5 o’clock, the Saturday before Christmas,
for a small audience of their own heavy coats,
for a few ushers arrived early, leaning on lobby doors.
But mostly they sang for themselves,
for it is a joy to feel song made of the body’s hollows.
I do not know if their marriage, this day, was still good
or whether it seemed again good
as they sang. I prefer to think of the choral conductor,
who sang with them. He sang all the parts, for love
not glory, or what seemed to be
glory to those who wandered in
and stood at the back of the hall, and listened.


– For more information on Suzanne Cleary, please click here.

– My Facebook page.

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