August 17th, 2006

poetrythursday

POETRY THURSDAY

I played clarinet for 3 months when I was in the 5th grade. My big hit was Mary Had a Little Lamb. I remember the smell of the clarinet case and the way you had to suck the reeds to get them moist before you played. I don't remember now why I didn't continue with my lessons, but that 3 months was the only formal training I ever had in playing a musical instrument...apart from my voice. I suspect my mother would have loved to have given us the chance to take piano lessons, but being in a military family where you move every few years made owning a piano prohibitive. I started in choir when I was 13 and for 3 years in high school I sang in 3 choirs: the large assembled school choir, a select Ensemble group that one had to audition to get into, and The Messengers, a non-denominational youth choir sponsored by the base church.*

I didn't sing during the 4 years of college except alone by myself under trees and in the shower and on road trips or with friends, but once I had moved to Chicago I spent some time trying out choirs again. I found a women's choir that I liked but ended up only participating for about a year before other interests took over my time and energy. There was a long hiatus from singing again, and despite performing at family weddings and my grandfather's funeral over the years I didn't find another choir for ages. After we moved to Sweden, and the kids were born, the inner pressure to begin formally singing again mounted until I couldn't bear it anymore. I joined a church choir but with Karin still a baby, and a demanding one at that, I discovered that I really wasn't able to keep up with it, and I didn't seem to be in the mood for all the other stuff that goes along with being in a church choir. But it whetted my appetite and I spent the next few years thinking about it and yearning, and keeping an ear out for news of a choir that would fit my lifestyle.

Cut to 3 years ago...the kids were old enough that I could finally see my way to spending more time for myself. I had recently begun finding my way back to the person I once was, back to art and writing and music. A friend told me about a women's choir in Malmö and I decided to tag along. Now, once again I can't imagine my life without music, and without singing. Even though our weekly practices require a major commitment in time and gas money, they're worth it and I get such energy out of singing together with this group of wonderful people. But there is still a small part of me that wishes I HAD learned to play an instrument and kept it up. I know that I won't take time to do it, not now anyway, maybe some day.

What I like best about this poem is that it makes it so clear that your music comes from within and that you pull it out and sing it to the world around you. Word play, language, music, melody: this one works best if you read it out loud. Or sing it, whichever. :)

Player Piano
by John Updike


My stick fingers click with a snicker
And, chuckling, they knuckle the keys;
Lightfooted, my steel feelers flicker
And pluck from these keys melodies.

My paper can caper; abandon
Is broadcast by dint of my din,
And no man or band has a hand in
The tones I turn on from within.

At times I'm a jumble of rumbles,
At others I'm light like the moon,
But never my numb plunker fumbles,
Misstrums me, or tries a new tune.

***

More Great Poetry over here!

*military base, in case you were wondering