Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Gymnasium Church

Sweaty. A place of sweat and echoey sound. High ceilings and high windows. Cathedral-like this way. Light pouring down onto the polished wood floors that shine silver in patches and go an amber brown everywhere else.

I’m reminded of the poem, “High Windows,” by whatshisname. The English librarian. The guy who thought misery deepened like a coastal shelf and so forth. Who thought faith and God had disappeared. Well, at least they had for him. And it seemed to him so much a thing that was everywhere he looked that he supposed it had happened to all the world.

But not here. Not today. No. If I had him here today, I’d whisper, “Phil. Now there’s to be no talking. No poem making. Not even in your head. Especially in your head.

“What I want you to do is sing. When those words come up on the screen up there, just go ahead and sing. I know there is no musical notation. I know there is no time signature. I know all that.

“But that’s okay. Really. I just want you to read the words and sing them. Sing them along with the other people. Don’t worry about what they mean. Don’t worry about the semantics or the semiotics or the deep structure or the possible political linguistics or the philosophical or theological assumptions or the cultural norms or the socioeconomic subtext or the gender politics or the… Don’t think. Stop the machine of your mind that just loves to grind away on this stuff. Grind it down to a dust of its own making that it then proceeds to choke on.

“Just sing, Phil. Just let it go. Let it all go and sing. These words are fine words. They are praise words. They are thankful words. They are grateful words. They are humble. And this is what we’re here for after all. To sweat a little. To sing a little. To look up into that light and sky up there. And feel as small as we really are down here.

“To feel that wide expanse of blue out there. That endless infinite blue. And that light. That enormous light. All of it. Flowing down among us here. Through those high windows.”

And then I would put my arm around Phillip Larkin’s rounded shoulders. Rounded like a beetle’s shell. And then we would sing together. We wouldn’t care what anyone thought. We’d just sing as loud or soft as our spirits would direct. As long and heartstrong as our hearts felt like.

We would allow the doors that keep our hearts shut away to open through our exhalations. Through the vibrations surging in our hearts and throats and heads. And we would sing like this together all morning, until the band ran out of music. Until we’d sung the same songs several times. Until the other people left and the sweepers came to sweep up after us.

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