running and singing

Somewhere in one of her memoirs, Judy Collins (the singer) said something that boiled down to this: it is impossible to really sing and lie at the same time. If I remember correctly, she posed this as a possible test for future presidential candidates –the example she gave was Richard Nixon. Imagining him singing his way to the White House is relatively unfathomable. It was a good point, I thought.

We were given another two poems to figure our way through for one of my college classes recently, given the task of reading it slowly on a few different occasions to see how our interpretations of it changed or deepened or stayed the same. One poem we were given this week was addressing fear, something that’s hit fairly close to home for me in recent days. I decided to sit that one out and work on the other, but I read it a few times anyway. It wasn’t my story, and I didn’t want to falsely project on that poem my own encounter staring down fear, so for that poem, I chose to just listen.

In my travels, I’ve found several pieces of various forms of art (music, poetry, visual art) that deal with the conversations we have with fear. It’s as if by speaking to it directly, we dispel its magic. Maybe there’s truth to that.

But for some reason, I never thought of singing to fear. Here’s the poem I read, voiced by the poet herself, titled “I Give You Back” in our book, titled “A Poem to Get Rid of Fear” in the video.

Now when she gives that list: “I am not afraid to be black, I am not afraid to be white, I am not afraid to be hungry…” Here I had read her building up to a run, increasing speed. It’s how I read it, and maybe it’s a little telling of my own natural response to fear. I run.

She sings.

She stands there, in one place, takes her stance, and sings her truth to fear. It was a revolution.

There’s a time for running, and a time for singing.