The Searching Sings

no bird song verb ever can be found
no cataract chant
no wind wail

no syllables as sibilant as reed whisper
no tumble of words into waves

what voice can rain

how can lungs thunder
mouths crack the trunk of a tree

how can lips make runnels
roar into rapids

who knows how to hum summer
like the cicada

who knows how to tongue
the notes of sleet

yet the howl of a wolf
will answer the howl of a man

loons on a lake
will cry when called

and the mountain return
the shout of its name

no bird song verb ever can be found
but in the searching
sings a resonant sound

and song is telling
what can’t be told

song is awe made bold

song is blood flow
song is bone

song is the silence of stone

song is leap
between heart and bird

song is spirit heard


Published originally in Descant, Issue 107. Dedicated to Alfred Kunz.
Set as choral music by R. Murray Schafer.

Score available through Arcana Editions.
Recorded by the DaCapo choir on their Shadowland CD under the direction of Leonard Enns.

The searching sings – Schafer

Matthew Emery, R. Murray Schafer, Leonard Enns, and Rae Crossman at the 2014 Open Ears concert after performance of “The Searching Sings”

Murray rehearsing “The Searching Sings” in Conrad Grebel chapel with DaCapo Chamber Choir.