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All the World Is Sad and Lonely

Lyrics catch in the current of thought and a melody eddies in snagged memory. My flow is disrupted; my concentration miscarried. More notes and words burble to the surface and sink in the cool clarity of not now. My mother sings the prayer from Hansel and Gretel. Julie Andrews brings the hills alive. Gerry Rafferty winds me through Baker Street. A song is hooked and lured from my throat

It’s summertime but who sings to me? Is it George Benson or Cleo Laine? Am I sad or mellow? Do I just need to hear a little beauty or find a private place within to weep for no reason other than give myself permission? I know no tear before song.

I sang at the office. Something about the end of work demanded acknowledgment, celebration. I did not choose to sing or the song that came forth. Which Grace exceeds song in the heart of man?

Road trips are made for song, childhood songs. On Top of Old Smokey. Erie Canal. Clementine. Or even something more contemporary. Maybe Windmills of Your Mind. Unchained Melody. Yesterday. Songs I am not too old to forget.

My grandchildren know no musical heritage before MP3s. My LPs are curiosities. They do not hear what has not been electronically remastered. They have never sung in class. They do not ask Who Will Buy This Wonderful Morning. They do not know the way to San José. They do not Dream the Impossible Dream. But they can rap. Would that my tongue and lips be so limber.

When my dog was sick I sang to him as I staunched the blood pouring from his nose. When the nosebleed abated I was rewarded by a large hug but only if I had remembered all the lyrics to a song. Otherwise my humming was acknowledged by a disdainful parting look over his shoulder as if he escaped not from perdition of pain but the embarrassment of my failure. Now well but old he joins me in the living room when the stereo plays. We lie on our backs soothed by the crack and pop of whatever hooks me. He knows those other voices don’t forget the words; there will be no build-up to disappointment.

A friend dies. Will the chariot swing low if we do not celebrate its arrival?

Absent song, all the world is sad and lonely.