I am just wondering what you would say if you were called to testify about all that you had seen, all that had disgusted you, all that you condemned but did and said nothing while it occurred. What would you say if you had no choice but truth, no shading, no mincing of words, just the harsh light and you in a chair in an empty room, a disembodied voice asking endless questions? It is best that you remain silent, say nothing at all, for we have already judged you, and you know your own guilt.
Grace settles into the chair, less an act of sitting than of floating down onto the seat. She has borrowed my grandmother’s smile, kind, gentle, inviting. She pulls a book from her bag, its pages or most of them dog eared, and I glimpse some annotations in the margins. We sit around her like children awaiting presents on a holiday, as acolytes seeking knowledge from a font of poetic and prosaic wisdom, or so we think. She reads in a voice that is at once soft and loud enough to reach the back of the room, opening the book to a random page and diving in, then after what seems like a minute and an hour, she stops and asks for questions. We sit dumbstruck for a moment then fire at her like machine gunners on the range. She answers each, claims she is a simple grandmother who writes but we know better, know we are in the presence of a true master.
In that moment when the gentle chirping of a small bird resounds as a pounding spring deluge, washes away the creak and thrum of passing cars, when she sings only to you, her small voice drawn in to your ears, your mind, until it fades slowly like the bell and you wait for it to strike again, to feel it seep down your spine, ooze into your fingers and toes, pool in bent knees and elbows, folded hands. In that moment the gentle chirping is your voice, and you are perched in the weeping cherry tree in the garden preening in the morning sun.
After years of embarrassment I have finally come into the light. It isn’t that my writing has improved, although I surmise that would be a narrow space to fill, or that I can now draw things that were once stick people and animals and things.
What has improved, and improved significantly is my singing voice, once a three note range, and one not known to music, but now I carry complex tunes to near perfection.
If you ask how this is possible, I will let you in on a secret, it is all in the audience, and mine is now limited to those stone deaf.