Where has the cadence gone? A lament during times without structure.

Note: While the word ‘cadence’ has a number of meanings, this poem uses it primarily in the sense of a sequence of notes or chords that bring a musical phrase to a close.

Where has the cadence gone?
The sentence-ending fitting word,
The coda of a rhythmic song?
When inhale, exhale linger – but not too long.

For my wandering voice is searching,
Reaching forward with each beat,
Yearning for that perfect end
Where rest and home will surely – and gladly meet. 

I used to know the steady pulse
And feel my words were safe and sure
But came unstuck in shapeless drift
Where each note stirs and blurs the one before. 

I ask – where has the cadence gone?
Its lovely form and tuneful craft?
For stave and ink and voice and song
Are grieving lest they leave – or dare forget their art. 

I wasn’t expecting this poem; it presented itself and demanded to be written. 

While it’s not a specifically Christian poem, the last line forcefully reminded me of Psalm 137. Writing in a place of exile, the psalmist says their right hand (for playing the harp) should forget its skill (wither) if they ever forget Jerusalem. 

There is such a need for the arts in times of uncertainty. The psalmist complains that they cannot sing in a foreign land, whilst writing a song. Music remains – even when music is gone. 

In writing this poem, I tried to capture the lack of closure and completeness that lockdown has brought. I’m fortunate in that my life still has a fair degree of structure and rhythm, but even I have felt the absence of proper pauses. Like reading a book with no chapter breaks. The paragraphs are there, but the plot threads overlap and there are no milestones. 

I have long felt that one of the church’s greatest assets is its calendar.

And today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of lent. I pray that over the coming weeks, you feel a restored sense of rhythm and cadence in your life. 

PS If you haven’t seen Malcolm Guite’s blog, I highly recommend it; it seems to have something for every occasion.

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