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Saturday, February 06, 2016


by Phyllis Klein

Aboriginal Brass Band Offers Burst of Hope in a Bleak Community
—NY Times, Jan. 24, 2016

I write back to tell her
about the Brass Band revival
in Yarrabah, Australia. How Anglicans
made the mistake of dragging Aboriginals
over to their mission and forced
them to labor in the 1890s.
How their children got yanked off
into dormitories, stripped
of their culture and language
like saplings with the wrong kind of bark.

Again, this white failure to understand
how the harness of racism
traps us all in a world without mercy.
Again, this felling of trees
in a forest already depleted and suffering.
Rosemerry, I say, I couldn’t ever believe 
in a journey from revulsion to hope.
But look, I say, but look, 
right here in the New York Times,
even this story has one slice of sun 
in the chapel of despair—the Brass Band. 
Listen, can you hear it as background
for Christian hymns, its instruments
able to withstand humidity
and heat, the music shimmying up tree trunks
into bluesy sky, unable to be enslaved.

And here is the band coming
out of its silence of fifty years.
Here is Greg Fourmile on euphonium
and Paul Neal, tenor sax,
didn’t know how to clap to rhythm,
let alone make music. Here are
the school kids and the grandmothers of Yarrabah
doing the best they can
to take the beat of healing into their hearts and ours.

They play for us, for everyone
who wants pride to replace shame,
for the terrible things we have done
and had done to us, and the need to go on.
For the meanness of power
and the sirens of greed.
For the insistence on healing,
the reforestation of what has been cut
but not destroyed.

Author’s Note: This poem was written in response to a poem by Rosemerry Trommer published in Rattle, Poets Respond.

Phyllis Klein believes in poetry. Her work has appeared in the Pharos of Alpha Omega Medical Society Journal, Emerge, Qarrtsiluni, Silver Birch Press, and The Four Seasons Anthology (Hurricane Press, 2015). She is very interested in the conversation between poets and readers of poetry. She sees artistic dialogue as an intimate relationship-building process that fosters healing on many levels. She lives and works in the San Francisco Bay area as a psychotherapist and poetry therapist.