What’s In The Silence But A Song?

What’s in the silence but a song? by Nancy Schatz Alton

Every day I set up a space.

I put slants on either side.

I wish for the words to flow

for my sentences to reach your ears

with the rhythm that I feel

as I listen to my daughters sing

alone or together

in their rooms or with me.

You can’t plan for that grace

the way I plan for this space.

I cast the minutes & read the poems

& wish to write the way they sing

to the latest hits, the ones I don’t know about

who’s that? who’s that? who’s that?

Can I package up this sound present

to unpack years from now

when I’m pining for their voices?

The truth is I want to write a perfect poem

& many books: to be famous for beauty.

Yet mostly I spend my time as a beauty hunter.

This beauty hunter is quieted by your singing

stunned that life gave me these gifts

all from a whim, a let’s-do-this

after I held my sweet friend’s sweet baby

after I heard my brother John laugh

again and again with his best friend Justin

knowing if I chanced upon the chance

to be a mother I’d have two:

two to laugh and two to sing

sweet songs that carry me to bliss:

the perfect poem, not one word written.



4 thoughts on “What’s In The Silence But A Song?

  1. Nancy….this reminds me of a memory that I can definitely resurrect the sights, sounds, feelings and lingerings –
    Every year I travelled to the Amish country in Lancaster Pennsylvania, home of the Old Order of Amish, to call on the Pennsylvania National Guard. My “travel sister”, Sue Green, from Machias New York and I took a map of the surrounding area, dissected it into quadrants and set out each afternoon after meetings, to drive one quadrant a day. One afternoon, after getting held up in horse and buggy traffic, we took off for what was to be the most memorable drive for us both. We’d driven to near darkness when I told Sue I would turn around at the next big farmhouse – they have huge parking lots in front and to the side of them. We found out later that is because they needed room for all the visitors who come for meals or classes or church with their horse and buggies.
    I finally spotted a farm house and as I began to execute a U-turn in their parking lot, Sue yelled, STOP! She saw a sign in the lowest, daylight basement window, that said QUILT SHOP – OPEN. She told me we must go in! I told her it looked dark…they couldn’t possibly be open, but she hopped out of the car anyway. I came to a full stop, turned off the engine and followed in behind her. To my amazement, the quilt shop was open. It was dusk -still enough light to see for a bit. The woman of the house introduced herself, told us to look as long as we could see, she had work to do at a desk near the front window. This home must have been 4 stories and was HUGE – possibly 5,000 square feet on each floor.
    Sue was in her element – she was seriously shopping for Christmas presents and an upcoming wedding. By the time we left, she had spent her wad, and then some. While Sue was snooping around, I was looking at the construction of the house and looking at pictures on the wall. And then I heard it ….a sound that began to swell, the closer I got to the stairs leading up to the main floor of the home. It started low but gradually gained volume and tempo and it was soon easy to tell I was hearing the female voices of many young girls – singing in harmony – singing and laughing and stopping everything they were doing to sing the very best they could at the most important part of the song. I could hear them laugh and giggle. I could hear them take in breath between phrases and it was as if angels were singing as they let their breath out. I was mesmerized. I hardly breathed. I did not want to miss a single note. One song would end, another would begin.
    I meandered over to the woman, working diligently at her desk, tallying the receipts of the day by hand in a long ledger book. I asked if was hearing a recording or was the music coming from people. She smiled the most beautiful smile I had ever seen. She told me that her daughters were cleaning up after the dinner meal – their favorite time of the day and they would sing until all their chores were done. She went on to say that they took an extra-long time to complete their chores, so they could sing to their hearts content.
    Even now, I get a feeling inside and I am taken back to that time and place as if I were standing in the stairwell while angels were singing above me….to delight me. In my darkest times, I conjure this experience…it all comes back -every single note, breath, laugh, the mother’s smile and obvious love for her daughters and am removed from the darkness into the light.

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