Singing is twice praying.
On alternating days we sang the Mass
At seven, boys, then girls, then boys again.
Sometimes the only ones who'd show
To sing were me and Hal the organist,
And I could barely hum a note. Refrains
Eluded me, so Hal would sing it solo.
Now Hal had music in his hands and feet;
The organ's pipes were a part of him.
But when he tried for music from his throat,
Well, Father said it sounded kind of sweet
If sweet meant scratchy, hoarse, and thin
And not unlike the bleating of a goat.
From Kyrie to Agnus Dei, Hal
Sang all the parts, sang treble, alto, bass
And never worried what the music said.
The words were all that mattered. Still somehow
He'd hit the final note then turn his face
And wink at me and proudly raise his head.
Hal quit the church when Kyrie became
The simple English Lord and anyone
Who wanted stood and strummed communal chords
For Masses where the singing was the same
As elevator sap, and Hal seemed stunned
To learn that music is in deed the words.
Originally published in Birmingham Poetry Review, Summer/Fall, 2005.
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