Backstage Meditation

Hair brushed,
shirts ironed,
faces scrubbed.
Eyes forward,
tense,
faces bright under the lights.
Grade five stands in ordered ranks on the risers.
I watched them from the wings backstage.
Voices clear and high:
“I’d rather stand tall
Than live on my knees
And I won’t accept defeat”
I wonder if they hear the words they sing

I remember: 
Hurdy Gurdy Man,
Born To Be Wild,
In a White Room,
Sympathy For the Devil. 
What did I know in fifth grade?

I closed my eyes and thought:
Every year is like a song.

Some notes sound with such clarity and joy
we hate to let them go, 
hold on to them as long as breath allows,
even pause 
waiting until the last lingering echo fades.

Others rise up out of deep wells of silence,
lonely and desperate as the cry of a child in the night.
We hear them and hurry home,
suddenly uncertain.

Sometimes our voice calls out alone
quavering, questing.
So many songs set forth
like ancient ships on uncharted seas.
Where they rest,
we’ll never know.

Other times a note is sounded,
picked up and passed along,
voice by voice the chorus gathers
a simple tune become a trend
then the fashion
and in their fashion
others join
making a swelling torrent.
Carried so far from where it started.
Until years later you hear it sung by children
Or piped outside to a parking lot where no one even knows the language.
Thus, in the half-life of social decay
do the isotopes of anger and outrage 
disintegrate into lighter elements,
entertainment, amusement,
a host of saccharine substitutes 
instead of truth’s harsh bitter sweet.

So many melodies begun
years like pages turned.
From afar, perhaps,
our songs are the faintest rustlings,
no more than waves of wind
from the passing wings of a kaleidoscope of butterflies.

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