Song Without Words

by Bethany Lee

A photo of a whale just under the surface of a blue body of water

What if
instead of developing language
we had chosen to remain content
with gestures and with music?

Would we comprehend the birds—
blush every spring morning
at the raucous intentions
inherent in their calling?

Would we perceive
the soul of the whales
through their inexhaustible
unbounded melodies?

What would I sing
to call the children home
when the twilight lingers
in the aimless streets?

How would I dance
for those who are dying
without any words
to fill the terrible
emptiness?

Would we understand each other less?
Or would we have learned to listen more?

What would I chant
to give thanks at the table?
And, without a name for the divine,
would I ever even think
to quarrel with you
about what to call the mystery?

Bethany Lee
Bethany Lee, author of The Breath Between and Etude for Belonging from Fernwood Press, lives in Lafayette, OR, at the edge of the woods. Her writing is inspired by the space at the edge—her experiences as a hospice harpist, a year spent traveling at sea, and the deep silence of her Quaker practice.

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