This quote is from my novel All Rivers Flow to the Sea. It pops up here and there around the world, on Instagram pages and Pinterest boards, translated into various languages. It’s taken on a life of its own, one I couldn’t have predicted. But I do remember writing these words, how the sentences spun themselves out as if they were trying to tell me something important. This poem feels the same way.
Holding the Note, by Eileen Sheehan
Singing class began with me being asked
to sing the scale. The class would laugh.
I never laughed because I already knew
I could not hold a tune, except inside my head.
For almost half a term I dreaded
Thursday mornings, until I told my mother
how I was used as an anti-tuning fork
to demonstrate how not to climb the scale.
My mother simplified it all with her advice,
Girl, on Thursday next, don’t sing.
So, next class I met her gaze dead on,
sealed my mouth tight shut. No matter
how many times she ordered me,
I allowed not one sound escape my throat.
Silence spread across the room
like a held note. I knew I had her then
for silence was my realm, not hers.
She rammed the tuning fork against
the wooden desk and instructed the
best singer in the room to lead
the group. My mother never asked a thing
when I got home but she sang, around the house,
a song that had my name in it:
and the girl inside the song could sing.
I carry every word and turn to The Spinning
Wheel: inside my head I sing it still.
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