Thursday, April 05, 2007

"and eternal light, shine on us," we sing,
except it's in latin, so none of us really know
or care what we're saying, except the alto
next to me, who isn't looking at the score or
the conductor anymore, but at the ceiling
chandeliers, light and crystal filling

her eyes--or is it emotion, some untold joy that fills
up her sight with tears? i keep going--breathe, sing:
"et lux perpetua, luceat eis," my voice hitting ceiling
and floor and wall with the others, all these i don't know
except by sight and sound, not name or
life--but I keep hearing this woman, this alto

next to me, and despite myself i raise my tenor to her alto
and for a moment i let our harmony fill
my lungs, trying to find some point or
line of intersection with her, because she sings
like a communicant in this church, who knows
something the rest of us don't, something past the ceiling,

some great mystery even beyond the ceiling
that i want to solve--but now it's a new movement and the alto
section's quiet, so i really don't know
how to move on with this, but the baritones fill
the air with their rumbling: "et in terra," they sing,
"pax ominibus, bonae voluntatis," some phrase or

something from (i think) the vulgate, or
is it just from the mass? i look for answers from the ceiling,
which is silent, but i just shrug softly and keep singing.
"pie Jesu domine, dona eis requiem"--and the alto
just cries next to me, a spark of something filling
her voice with a quiet fire, and suddenly i know,

i understand: this woman has known
darkness, and so she asks some god or
another for light and peace: "give them rest" fills
her not only her mouth but her lungs fill the ceiling
with the question--will we have it? her alto
resonates rich with pleading, and i sing

the same, i know this strange and holy song
too: or is this phrase filling
me with a prayer that never passes the ceiling?


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