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?

He said, "Let me paint a picture of your soul,"
To which I replied, "Wouldn't black and white
Photography be a better medium--more true to
The truth, with more grey than color?"
But he just sat and pulled out his paints
And brushes, so I tried very hard to keep still

So he could work. Hours later, here we are, still
Waiting for the oil and acrylic to dry, my soul
Done up in reds and blues, brighter paints,
Brighter hues than I would like, no speck of white
Showing on this canvas. And yet the colors
All bleed into one--brown? black?--and dance to

Some unheard harmony my ears still strain to
Hear, but I think he knows it, loves it, still
Hums that tune silently while he wipes the color
From his old worn hands and my soul
Sits down after posing so long, her white-
Bleached linen wrinkled with motion. The paint

Fumes are making us all giddy--paint,
Like wine, has stained me scarlet. Too
Often he has tried to make this pale white
Spirit rainbow-hued like fractured light. Still,
I understand his need to try and make this soul
Something beautiful, something lovely, colored

By his perception of me (the hues colored
Crimson by his bloodied eyes), and so he asks to paint
Me not in truth, but in dreams--and my soul
Now rises, and I watch her go to the canvas, to
Her portrait, and she looks at that false mirror, still,
Quiet, and then she smiles, her white

Dress now tinted by the canvas glow. And the white
Light of the morning illuminates the colors
Of this room; I watch the sun stand still
Before me, and from the shadows the painter
Comes to me, points to his work and says, "To-
day I gave you a brighter soul."

And so I turn and look, and my soul, no longer white
And faded, but now colored in the hues of the painted
Sun, asks him to sing--and she is dancing still.