A Song for My Grandfather

A cappella in the Nonconformist sense

as well as unaccompanied,

the mostly elderly congregants

make the Sacred Harp sing

(so few of them now, but

you can find them, like everything,

on the Internet),

its notes shaping their harmony,

their concentrated voices

resonating in some old pine-wood church,

a few keeping time

with a raised and lowered arm,

believing the words,

but breathing the music,

and I think of my grandfather,

not an educated man,

but one who loved to go to “singings,”

who had gone to the singing schools

that rural churches used to sponsor,

knew how to sing his part,

a way to take his rest from life’s work,

of farming, driving trucks, and building caskets,

and when I hold his hymnal from the 1940s,

its blue cloth cover faded but intact,

like my memories of him,

I imagine it in his stronger hands,

him all dressed up in  “spoaty”*

clothes and singing loud.


Copyright 2016

T. Allen Culpepper


*His pronunciation of “sporty.”

Note: The poem is mostly true, but I have invented a few details where memory has failed or in the case of events before my time.