Archives for October 2016

The Silencing

the_silence_of_the_lambs_by_ineedchemicalx-d5oo88hI am posting this because I think perhaps we all feel silenced, no matter how much real time we get to tell our stories.  I raged because I felt silenced, and then realized how privileged I am in being able to tell so much.
Others are far more silenced than I am.

This is the story:

Anna walks in silence
Walks and walks and walks
It used to be the tiny dog followed, running after her.
But the dog died
And now she walks alone.
She doesn’t talk
except to nod, say my name,
and keep on walking.

One day she saw me standing in witness
Staring as a police officer put handcuffs
On a young black man with beautiful dreadlocks,
A pretty, sweet looking young man.
Bobby, who was working on a car right there at the curb
Right beside where the police car sat in the street
Right behind the young man’s car
where another officer searched the trunk,
Bobby said to me, “I ain’t saying nothing.”
He was frightened.

I was frightened, too,
even though I’m not black,
I hadn’t done anything…
(Maybe the young man hadn’t done anything either –
He wasn’t arrested…
But he was handcuffed, standing in the middle of the street,
Not moving,
Not offering any resistance.)

Anna saw me standing in witness
As she walked by
with quick glances at the police
at me.

The next day she spoke,
“You know that boy you watched yesterday?”
(She called him a boy.
I thought him a boy, too, young, vulnerable,
but by law he was a grown man)
I nodded.
“He was shot, killed.  Yesterday, later.”*

I felt my eyes open wide.
Frozen.
How… how…
(But that’s how I know he wasn’t arrested.
If he’d been arrested, he wouldn’t have been shot.)

She nodded and kept on walking.

One day I wanted to tell this story,
But I was silenced.
It was not really a good time to tell the story.
It was not an inappropriate silencing.
I knew that.
(And maybe I can tell this story so much better here, on paper,
than stumbling bumbling though the verbal)
But still, a rage welled up in me.
Silenced, I thought.
It feels like I’m always silenced.

I danced my rage,
my rage about myself
about my being silenced…
and something else happened.
Something much more important.

In the midst of my rage at being silenced
Another rage erupted
Coming from deep down
A volcano of rage.
I recognized how much more silenced
The people of my neighborhood are.
I saw how privileged I am.
I have the money to host a blog.
I have the time and the education to write books,
To post on Facebook, on Twitter.

I realized that Anna
That thin stark figure who walks and walks
Anna has been truly silenced,
Bound, shackled by our society
much like her ancestors were shackled.
Listen
Listen
As Anna walks in silence, she talks.
Listen
Her body tells the story.

* Just to be clear, this was not a police involved shooting.

Blue Birds and the White Cliffs of Dover

doverI’m a piano teacher.

Saturday I came home to find a big stack of old music left on my front porch by a neighbor who’d found it in a piano bench.

My first thought, was, “Oh, no, not more music,” but as I thumbed through it I found myself thoroughly enjoying sitting down to the piano to read through the old sheet music.

Some were familiar, others weren’t.

I found myself laughing somewhat ruefully at the words of Ira and George Gershwin’s The Man I Love.  As an adolescent I loved this song. I still believed in “Prince Charming,” I guess, and that someone would come along and “take care of” me. Actually, I don’t think I really thought that far ahead. I suspect I just wanted to be hugged. Or to be accepted as an okay person, i.e. beautiful female. Even then I had a strong streak of independence that wouldn’t have put up with being encaged in “a little home just meant for two, from which [I’d] never roam.”

When I came to the piece There’ll Be Blue Birds Over the White Cliffs of Dover, I laughed at the title, and then realized that this was a WWII song written in 1941 by Nat Burton and Walter Kent, both American Jews. As I played it, singing the words, I felt the poignancy of the people of England facing the bombing of their homes, the children sent away for safety.

Then I came to the words, “There’ll be love and laughter and peace ever after, tomorrow when the world is free,” and I felt tears welling up. Will there ever be a time when we have “peace ever after”, when “the world is free,” (according– since West Side Story was based on Romeo and Juliet – to my own terms of what freedom means.) The blue birds, it turns out were the planes of the RAF painted blue on the bottom so they would be harder to see against the sky.

As I continued on through the music I found more songs echoing a wistful hope for a better world.  A Time for Us from Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet (an incredibly well done version of Shakespeare made in the late 60’s) calling for “A time for us… a new world of shining hope for you and me.” One reviewer compared this movie to West Side Story, which I found hilarious – since West Side Story was based on Romeo and Juliet – before I saw the movie, and understood completely after seeing it.  And then, of course, there is Somewhere from West Side Story (which wasn’t in this pile of music) – “We’ll find a new way of living … a way of forgiving.”

I’m sure there are dozens, maybe hundreds, more of these wistful, hopeful songs going back centuries. (Add your favorites in the comments.)

These songs are important, but they tend to paralyze me, rather than push toward working for change. What we really need is songs that call us to action, and there are plenty of these, as well. (These too could be listed in the comments.)

In the Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet there is at least one song that is a call to action. Arise! asks us to “open our eyes,” “beat our feet to the beat of our heart,” and “join the dance of life.” You can hear the music and see the words here.