Sing ’Til It’s True

200 total words    

1 minutes of reading

I’ve got peace like a river in my soul. 

African American spiritual, arr. by William J. Reynolds

“The thing about singing,” said grandpa,

“is you have to keep singing for it to come true.”

So a small group gathers

beating steady rhythm

calls the salmon home.

And a mother, through tears,

rocks her baby, letting her know,

she’ll buy her a diamond ring.

And the ghost of Woody Guthrie,

a sharp twang that bounces

down the canyon, keeps repeating:

“This land is your land.

This land is my land.”

We wake, turn on the smokebox,

wires to our ears like thin tapeworms.

Keep singing

At the coffin, at the pine-grove,

in the still small silences of night.

Keep singing

To remind yourself:

there didn’t have to be music in the world.

There coulda been blood and bruises

With no tourniquet, no balm.

There coulda been a pit

with no ladder

An ocean without dry land,

a storm without shelter.

There coulda been.

There’s no certainty

of benevolence. But

there’s music.

And you can sing

alone, in pairs,

or with the storm itself.

“The thing about singing,” said grandpa,

“is you have to keep singing for it to come true.”

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  • Gavin Van Horn

    Gavin Van Horn is Executive Editor for the Center for Humans and Nature Press. He is the author of The Way of Coyote: Shared Journeys in the Urban Wilds (University of Chicago Press, 2018), and co-editor of Kinship: Belonging in a World of Relations (Center for Humans and Nature Press, 2021), Wildness: Relations of People and Place (University of Chicago Press, 2017), and City Creatures: Animal Encounters in the Chicago Wilderness (University of Chicago Press, 2015).
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