One Night At a Berkeley Pub

At the Starry Plow, , a young man sings “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda”
It’s the first time I have really listened to the words:
Tales of the ravages of the first world war
Exhausted, I wistfully wish he’d picked a different song tonight.

But when the verses are over and the chorus repeats
Again and again, my attention starts shifting.
To the ten people standing in the isle
Standing in a line, silent as a grave.

I’m the only one to notice them,
Held transfixed by the grief that haunts their tearless eyes
And within such sadness, I lose my bearings,
Their solemn sorrow startles me.

This is not what I expected.
Too many emotions that contradict each other
Course through their bodies, as they let the music move them.
Too much to be present to, but I try.

And then forgetting to make sense out of it all,
I fold my hands and sit still with them until the song is over.
Together, they wrap their Arms around each other,
Holding on tightly, as if bracing themselves against emptiness.

As if, by trying to appear as one,
They could quell the different struggles taking place within them each,
A weary story etched upon their faces,
Between us and the silence, and with the silence it remains.

If I were alone I’d cry for those whose tears cannot fall.
My friend asks me, “Aren’t you going to drink your beer?”
But I am far, so far, far away from here.
Feeling what they’re feeling, I can’t move or speak at all.

The song done, I wish that I could comfort her, my troubled soul sister,
Beside me now, determined to regain composure,
And though I cannot hold her, I can reach out and enfold her,
Never alone, I whisper, a single space is ours together.

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2 thoughts on “One Night At a Berkeley Pub

  1. Liz, you are exceptional. This piece captures such a great depth of emotion. It is one of my favorites and I am so impressed.

    1. Thank you, Marina! I don’t know about being exceptional, but what I saw will certainly stay with me all my life. I’m honored to have shared in that moment and I’m glad my experience spoke to you.

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