A Piece of Quiet

To Jon C.

Singing a soft song, sitting on that burlap brown sofa.
Picking at the fabric pills, not bored. Engaged.
Bouncing my knee. Nervous like a cow who knows the calf is coming.
Last night’s sleep in an old blue sleeping bag. Whispers of friendship.
Confessions to the other students at the youth retreat. Little kindnesses. We are not a loud people.
When we sing, we hear each other’s harmonies.
Each voice treasured, like a piece of quiet, a part of the gentle whole.
Applause are honest praise but always brief.
In choir these voices fill the balcony with the pure melody of warmth.
They are not silent. They are full of music,
But they are a quiet people.


Singing clear, soft a capella sitting on the burlap couch,
My closed eyes open, glide across the room.
White shirt crisp and blue-black tie in a half-Windsor,
Our balding, kind-faced teacher adjusts his glasses.
He begins to pray for us. Thirty-five teens,
People of faith from happy homes and sad,
Short and tall, from every high school within twenty miles.
We will not remember the words of his prayer. But
We will remember he prayed. That he was for us,
And his Lord is for us, and grants us peace and quiet.
He brought us music. Gave us time.
He lost sleep for us. Disciplined us with his kind basso voice.
Until we grew to discipline ourselves.
The gifts he gave his choir cannot be counted,
Cannot be measured on the audiometer he brought from work,
To show us the shapes our voices make when we sing.
Those of us sitting on those basement couches,
Listening as he prayed for us–some of us didn’t have two parents at home.
Didn’t have a lot of teachers on our side. But we had at least one teacher.


King David writes he will sing for the Lord,
Because the Lord has dealt bountifully with him.
When parents are missing, when tomorrow’s lunch isn’t in the fridge,
When the regular loneliness of adolescence holds us down,
It’s hard to see the bounty. But we could hear that teacher’s prayers.
I like to think he hoped for us before we could hope for ourselves.
When the Creator is quiet, loneliness bends our backs and sags our shoulders,
But we are a people of quiet strength. We have clear, soft songs to hold us up.
If the Lord chooses to whisper, we will still hear his piece of quiet.
We listen for his bounty, just like we listened to our teacher’s prayers.
After all, the song is not just note after note after note. The song is also the quiet in between.
There is music in a rest.

Photo by David Beale on Unsplash

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