Thursday, October 06, 2005

The choir kept singing of freedom

It's been a rough couple of days - big good stuff and big bad stuff too. I'm feeling sort of battered and bruised...not the best mindset to be writing a paper on contextualizing familial identity. I think you should be feeling a little stronger for this type of work. Often I summarize my experience through the example of the songs we sang...As was told to me, and I tell to others, we learned first not the songs of childhood, but of struggle and resistance: that my mother learned "The Ballad of Kevin Barry" on family vacations, and that I sing "The Song of Springhill" to myself when I am scared, alone at night.

I had pulled Rise Up Singing from the shelf this morning - in hopes that I would find the words to Shalom Aleichem ( I did not) which I am learning for a class - and got up from my computer to verify a stanza to include in a personal narrative:

In the town of Springhill, you don't sleep easy
Often the earth will tremble and roll
When the earth gets restless miners die
Blood and bone are the price of coal

And of course, like using a dictionary where you can't look up just *one* word - I can't look up just *one* song. We've been working through some incredibly, shockingly, rudimentary stuff regarding privilege and oppression in the class I'm facilitating...and, for inspiration, I always go back to the songs I learned as being part of the Civil Rights Movement. My favorite of these is "Birmingham Sunday," which I love for its connection to an old, old tune and a not-so-old event. I held the book high in my hands, stood up straight, bounced the sound off my palate, and sat down to sob by the chorus. I tried to get through the rest of it, but, as you probably know, you can't sing and cry.

On grey lonesome afternoons in this town I hate, with a messy house and a noisy street, I look around and don't recognize my life. I am filled with an almost desperate need to be at my childhood home - tucked in my slanted bower, staring for hours at my hundred-acre view of mud and grass and sky, singing softly to myself.