Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Rosa Jurjevics in Boston

Swing Low

Tonight is melancholy, but I can't imagine why. I am coming home from a party and I smell like second-hand smoke and, in the cool air, it's not so bad, an almost comforting smell. The moon is out and lights my way, and as I stoop to tie my shoe, I can hear the clink-clink of bottles hitting each other as a homeless woman scoops through the bags at the curb. I'm still a bit jazzed from hopping out of my shared cab mid-ride as my acquaintance/friend Colleen curled up by the wrought-iron fence of the Boston Common to vomit. It's cold in a way that picks up my step. I could run if I wasn't so tired. But I am, so I don't. I walk, keep walking, shoes scraping the asphalt.

I'm thinking about the future, I guess: where I'll be in two months, what shape my life will take. There is so much to do, and it feels impossible. Time is beginning to slip through my fingers. It's cruel, how slow it went at first, when I wanted it to speed up, and how now, when I need it most, time has quickened. How much I gained this year and how much I lost, what I had and thought I had and never had and never will have and might get again but then again, might not. And what it all means and what it all doesn't. I kick a rock.

Without reason, I start to sing. I'm at the top of the hill on which I live, crossing it to get to my street. I don't know what I'm singing, but it matches my step, and it takes me two blocks to realize that it's "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." A spiritual.

I was about six years old when I learned that song, sweet voiced and pigtailed and sitting up tall in my folding chair in the music room. Jane, our faithful, blue-eyed teacher, poured out song after song on the school's box piano, a honey-colored, chipped affair that looked as though it had been through at least one world war, and we chirped and mumbled along. Our favorite, "Drill Ye Tarriers Drill," was a loud, sturdy number that chronicled the building of the railway system, one we memorized the words to and sang at our Harvest Festival assemblies with the dark autumn sky poking through the windows.

My favorites, though, were those old spirituals. There was something about them, about their cheerful melodies and pining for death, a lesson not lost on us even at six. We were taught about the slaves who sung them and why they sung them and what they meant, but nobody could have explained the longing we would feel singing them, the beauty the words held, the sweet sadness of the tunes. How the hardship comes through, the barbed edge poking its head up.

I'm approaching my door; I can see it and the glowing light of the laundromat below my building. I'm still singing, letting the song fill me up and tug me empty, the way I now know it will. I'm not a great singer but not a terrible one, still possessing a sweet voice but, if I'm honest with myself, one best suited for harmony, for descant. It is not a leader's voice, but it is tonight, on this lonely street, in this lonely song. And it was when I sang out for the first woman I ever loved, the first time I opened my voice to another person. I sang for her as I sing now, though I lost my nerve there with her and dropped off after three lines, the only lines I remembered. Here, I press on strong, verse for verse, singing for me, I guess. Singing to keep my head from bowing, to keep my eyes from filling? Singing to whom? To myself? To the moon?

But it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter, because tonight I'm looking over Jordan and begging whoever beats me to it to tell my friends I'm close behind.

www.pianogoesbackwards.negimaki.com

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Jackslacks releases Billy Bacon tribute EP When Pigs Fly

Bacon passed away in August 2019

Swing Low

Tonight is melancholy, but I can't imagine why. I am coming home from a party and I smell like second-hand smoke and, in the cool air, it's not so bad, an almost comforting smell. The moon is out and lights my way, and as I stoop to tie my shoe, I can hear the clink-clink of bottles hitting each other as a homeless woman scoops through the bags at the curb. I'm still a bit jazzed from hopping out of my shared cab mid-ride as my acquaintance/friend Colleen curled up by the wrought-iron fence of the Boston Common to vomit. It's cold in a way that picks up my step. I could run if I wasn't so tired. But I am, so I don't. I walk, keep walking, shoes scraping the asphalt.

I'm thinking about the future, I guess: where I'll be in two months, what shape my life will take. There is so much to do, and it feels impossible. Time is beginning to slip through my fingers. It's cruel, how slow it went at first, when I wanted it to speed up, and how now, when I need it most, time has quickened. How much I gained this year and how much I lost, what I had and thought I had and never had and never will have and might get again but then again, might not. And what it all means and what it all doesn't. I kick a rock.

Without reason, I start to sing. I'm at the top of the hill on which I live, crossing it to get to my street. I don't know what I'm singing, but it matches my step, and it takes me two blocks to realize that it's "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." A spiritual.

I was about six years old when I learned that song, sweet voiced and pigtailed and sitting up tall in my folding chair in the music room. Jane, our faithful, blue-eyed teacher, poured out song after song on the school's box piano, a honey-colored, chipped affair that looked as though it had been through at least one world war, and we chirped and mumbled along. Our favorite, "Drill Ye Tarriers Drill," was a loud, sturdy number that chronicled the building of the railway system, one we memorized the words to and sang at our Harvest Festival assemblies with the dark autumn sky poking through the windows.

My favorites, though, were those old spirituals. There was something about them, about their cheerful melodies and pining for death, a lesson not lost on us even at six. We were taught about the slaves who sung them and why they sung them and what they meant, but nobody could have explained the longing we would feel singing them, the beauty the words held, the sweet sadness of the tunes. How the hardship comes through, the barbed edge poking its head up.

I'm approaching my door; I can see it and the glowing light of the laundromat below my building. I'm still singing, letting the song fill me up and tug me empty, the way I now know it will. I'm not a great singer but not a terrible one, still possessing a sweet voice but, if I'm honest with myself, one best suited for harmony, for descant. It is not a leader's voice, but it is tonight, on this lonely street, in this lonely song. And it was when I sang out for the first woman I ever loved, the first time I opened my voice to another person. I sang for her as I sing now, though I lost my nerve there with her and dropped off after three lines, the only lines I remembered. Here, I press on strong, verse for verse, singing for me, I guess. Singing to keep my head from bowing, to keep my eyes from filling? Singing to whom? To myself? To the moon?

But it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter, because tonight I'm looking over Jordan and begging whoever beats me to it to tell my friends I'm close behind.

www.pianogoesbackwards.negimaki.com

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Santa Ana winds bring San Diego's driest days; where to cool off; best view of Mars till 2033

Natural San Diego, September 28-October 4
Next Article

Ellen Sturgis Hooper: cited as the most gifted of the Transcendentalist Movement

Ralph Waldo Emerson often commissioned her to write verse for The Dial
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close