Mama Sang Tenor

And when we faltered, as we often did. . .

A poem to begin National Poetry Writing Month. We need poetry in these days of uncertainty. We need music too, and this playful poem celebrates the music my mama instilled in my life.

I was the first-pew alto
in the grown up choir at the
growing up age of seven.
I could read some music
and Grandma could too but the
other singers only sang soprano.

Mama led us from the organ,
silver slippers on her feet, and a
ring bedecked with rubies on her hand.
“Watch me. Count it out. Give me
everything you’ve got.” But even that,
on many Sundays, was really not a lot.

The mockingbird disrupts my thoughts
as I recall those days gone by. “Watch me,”
she cries and flaps her wings.
“Go on and get away.
I’m a mama and I’ve got babies
in your backyard holly tree.”

They say she can sing an orchestra.
She’s a fearless symphony,
like Mama, I think, with our Sunday choir,
she swoops in with all her heart.
And when we faltered as we often did,
mama sang every part.

Author: Jill Crainshaw

I am a professor at Wake Forest University School of Divinity and an ordained PCUSA minister.

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