Suzanne Cleary


My husband and his first wife once sang Handel’s Messiah

at Carnegie Hall, with 300 others who also had read

the ad for the sing-along, and this is why I know

the word glory is not sung by the chorus,

although that is what we hear.

In fact, the choir sings glaw-dee, glaw-dee

while it seems that glory unfurls there, like glory itself.

My husband sings for me. My husband tells me they practiced

for an hour, led by a short man with glasses,

a man who made them sing glory, twice, so they could hear it

fold back upon itself, swallow itself

in so many mouths, in the grand hall.

Then he taught them glaw-dee, a distortion that creates the right effect,

like Michelangelo distorting the arms of both God and Adam

so their fingertips can touch.

My husband and his first wife and 300 others performed

at 5 o’clock, the Saturday before Christmas,

for a small audience of their own heavy coats,

for a few ushers arrived early, leaning on lobby doors.

But mostly they sang for themselves,

for it is a joy to feel song made of the body’s hollows.

I do not know if their marriage, this day, was still good

or whether it seemed again good

as they sang.  I prefer to think of the choral conductor,

who sang with them.  He sang all the parts, for love

not glory, or what seemed to be

glory to those who wandered in

and stood at the back of the hall, and listened.




“Glory” is reprinted with permission from Keeping Time, (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2002).