Ann Keiffer

One Singer in the Choir

At choir rehearsal,
after our break for snacks and chat,
she’s laughing, her face alight,
her body at ease and playful
as she scurries back to her chair
and sits down.
Right in the middle
of the bass section!
Her clothes are fashionable
but not flashy, black tights,
knee-high black suede boots,
short denim hug- of-skirt,
jewelry subtly edgy,
black headband on black hair.
All evening she is attentive,
engaged, listening, singing,
grinning, relaxed.
She is clearly happy to be here,
happy to be one of the group,
happy to be herself.

Not that many weeks ago,
my choir friend’s face was
altogether different,
a rictus of invisibility
closed down, closed off,
eyes never quite prepared
to meet your own,
body awkward, stiff.
Such unease was odd,
considering the boatload
of academic awards,
prizes in music performance,
and the level of competitive
excellence my young friend
had already achieved.
Imagine, while still in college,
developing a little piece
of entertainment that sells big…
and suddenly you’re co-founder
of a hot new company.

But the boatload of successes
began to sink the ship.
Each achievement was
a mockery, making my friend’s
life feel hollow, a cheat,
a lie, a charade, a scam,
a sham, empty and shallow.
To my friend, the successes
all came under false pretenses.
The prizes rightfully belonged
to someone else,
a stranger
someone who was born a male
but went by her name.

Each day demanded ever
greater hyper-vigilance.
move your hands like that.
walk like that.
sit like that.
talk like that.
laugh like that.
look like that.
Contort, freeze, deny, restrain…
until the strain was so great
my friend had to choose:
life or death.
My friend chose death…
dying to everything that had been,
dying to the known,
dying to safety,
dying to gender-destiny…
in order to live.
My friend is a joyful woman now,
who, at least for the time being,
still sings bass.

Ann Keiffer
March, 2012

Photo Credit: Google Image Search-Faces of Bellingham


About Ann

I am interested in the strange beauty of brokenness, in transforming possibility in difficult times, in how we heal even when we can’t get better, in the alchemy of surrender, in the interplay of light and shadow, in the bounty of everyday wonders, in the gift of laughter…and writing about it, all and everything.

Recent Poems

Buy My Book