Wednesday, October 22, 2014

William Ayot: "Anyone Can Sing"

















Anyone can sing. You just open your mouth,
and give shape to a sound. Anyone can sing.
What is harder, is to proclaim the soul,
to initiate a wild and necessary deepening:
to give the voice broad, sonorous wings
of solitude, grief, and celebration,
to fill the body with the echoes of voices
lost long ago to bravery, and silence,
to prise the reluctant heart wide open,
to witness defeat, to suffer contempt,
to shrink, lose face, go down in ignominy,
to retreat to the last dark hiding-place
where the tattered remnants of your pride
still gather themselves around your nakedness,
to know these rags as your only protection
and yet still open—to face the possibility
that your innermost core may hold nothing at all,
and to sing from that—to fill the void
with every hurt, every harm, every hard-won joy
that staves off death yet honours its coming,
to sing both full and utterly empty,
alone and conjoined, exiled and at home,
to sing what people feel most keenly
yet never acknowledge until you sing it.
Anyone can sing. Yes. Anyone can sing.



"Anyone Can Sing" by William Ayot, from Small Things That Matter. © Well at Olivier Mythodrama Publishing, 2003. Presented here as posted on the poet's website.

Art credit: "Young survivor sings at Ulm DP [Displaced Person] camp," photograph courtesy of Lillian Gewirtzman (nee Rajs), Holocaust survivor and schoolmate of the girl in the photo, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archives.