Thank you to everyone who has been so kind to our family in the wake of the loss of our matriarch, Shirley Duncan, our beloved mother, sister, aunt, grandmother, great-grandmother, and friend. Several of you have asked for the text of the sonnet that I quoted, written by my son, Jennings. Here it is.
The sonnet is about a group of Singers singing together for the last time, and he wrote it just before his graduation from Mississippi State University, and right before his final time singing with the Mississippi State Singers (he and his roommate Eli Denson have set it to music, by the way). I liked it, and related to it, the very first time I read it, but in the wake of my mother’s death, the lines that especially caught my attention and landed in a different way are “And so there does exist A special pain when singers cease to sing. For while the world, with song, will still persist, No longer will with praise our voices ring.”
My mother taught me to sing, sang with me my whole life, and put a song in my mouth and in my heart. The realization I will never sing with her, here, again, hit hard.
Sonnet for State Singers
by Jennings Duncan
Dedicated to Dr. Gary Packwood, Dr. Christy Lee, and the graduating class of 2022
Music is health: is whispers of wounds still
Soft, opened by song to be dressed in care,
While we—restored to rest (at least until
Silence once again sounds)—gain strength to bear
Its absence. Swept away from ears, remains
A moment in the self—a memory
Of the feeling of being, at once, changed
Into persons by simple melody.
We are then one. And so there does exist
A special pain when singers cease to sing.
For while the world, with song, will still persist,
No longer will with praise our voices ring.
Music is health. And yet its wounds I feel.
So Singer, sing to teach us how to heal.