Friday, October 15, 2010

A great poem by Gary Margolis, one of the Middlebury College faculty after screening of Tibet in Song at Middlebury on Oct 9, 2010.

What Was Sung To Us

My fellow Cornwallians,

before I forget, can I ask you

to recall the songs

you heard your grandfathers

sing, under their breaths,

when they thought no one

was listening, when they were

sitting alone in the cabs

of their tractors? And the tunes

their wives, your grandmothers

sang, when they were putting up

apples, trying to put the breeze,

coming from the orchard,

lifting off the swamp, into a jar.

Can I ask you to remember

what a neighbor said near

the counter in Longey's store

that later turned into a new

hymn? Or had such a beat

you could feel it, even in your

clay-caked boots. I wouldn't

expect you to forget the tapping

a loose shutter makes, when it can't

forget the wind was made

in the nearby lake, in the leaves

the smoke sends into our ears,

we have to make something of,

even if it isn't quite the pulled bell

in the roof of the Congregational

Church. And who's to say who

didn't hear a cow bellowing in

the back field and found their own way to hum it in a low register,

to bring it to mind, even in the dead

of winter, when the power lines

are down, when they can't sing

like cicadas. Like you, my fellow

Cornwallians, who hold all your songs

in your dreams, who wake before

dawn to sing them back into the barn

and the fields the barn stores.

You, who took the story of Ngawang

Choepel to heart. May I remind you,

he was the Tibetan young man

who studied nearby for a year

at the college and returned to Tibet

to save, to record the songs and dances

of his ancestors, his countrymen and women.

Who was jailed for saving that living

music and sending it out into the world,

keeping it, too, in the mouths of his cellmates.

Who, like us, will know how to sing themselves

Awake. We, who feel how the sun is free

to raise the deer from their unforgettable,

leafy beds. Who sing back what we can't forget

what was sung to us.

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