by Susan McCaslin
Flanked by milling shoppers
jockeying for positions in line ups,
I walk through a labyrinthine, underground mall,
past elegant makeup counters, robotic joggers,
into rooms of stockpiled merchandise,
oil tanks, missiles, endless silent hallways
that open at last on a corn-yellow room
where light streams from a skylight
on the braided head of a woman
playing a grand piano and singing.
She is not young or old, familiar or unfamiliar,
but has the timbre of one who had been my mother,
one long thought dead.
And what a voice, as of all octaves slung together,
an Ella voice, a rich contralto hymning “Summertime,”
voice broken and repaired in each measure,
voice beyond control and controlling
voice of longing and release
voice of resisting and yielding,
voice making no division
between upper and lower worlds,
liminal, liberating voice without score
no ulterior motive but to sing
the song which is the world
in all its rich atonalities, lifts and falls.
(For if one can so sing, anything may be possible.)
So this is how I come to the upper world,
not shoving one foot before the other,
but remaining where I am and rising on a voice.
Often now, I am in the deep underground
and simultaneously above,
being both spring and winter,
all seasons rotating together.