The Silent Singer

The girls sang better than the boys,
their voices reaching All the way to God,
Sister Ann Zita insisted during those
       practice sessions
when I was told to mouth do, re, mi,
       but to go no higher,
when I was told to stand in back
       and form a perfect O
           with my lips
although no word was ever to come out,
the silent singer in that third-grade
during the Christmas Pageant and Easter
       Week, the birth and death
           of Christ lip-synched
               but unsung
while my relatives, friends and parents
       praised my baritone,
       how low my voice was,
Balancing those higher, more childlike tones,
       my father said,
Adding depth, my mother said,
Thank God they had my huskiness to bring all
       that tinniness to earth
       my great-aunt whispered,
so I believed for many years in miracles
the words I'd never sung reaching their ears
       in the perfect pitch, the perfect tone,
while the others stuttered in their all-too-human
       voices to praise the Lord.

-- Len Roberts, Professor of English, Northampton Community College in Bethlehem (PA), winner of Gugenheim, National Endowment for the Arts, and National Poetry Series awards, ten editions of poetry.