This past week, I visited the Petit-Château on Monday for poetry and music and Friday for a special songwriting workshop for Women’s Week. Monday began with sunshine and ended with grey sky, but the music we created warmed my spirit tremendously.
At the start of the Monday session, there were just a few folks in the corridor, a couple of men who had only recently arrived from Djbouti and some more quiet individuals, watching and deciding whether or not to join in.
We explained the process of poetry and song. My fellow volunteer wrote a short Rumi verse at the top of the piece of paper taped to the brick wall:
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing
There is a field
I’ll meet you there
The two men stood and reflected for many moments and then began writing words inspired by Rumi and their own experience.
On est tous des immigrés/We are all immigrants
Dans ce monde!/In this world
Les Chrétiens, les Musulmans/Christians, Muslims
Tous les religions sont pareils/All the religions are the same
Their words described how all people are connected, regardless of the color of their skin or their eyes; everyone’s blood runs red on the inside.
I continue to feel a sense of wonder at the beauty and hope in their words. I see no hatred, anger, or resentment, only love and solidarity.
We posted a second sheet of paper and transferred phrases that could become our refrain. Possible verses were written up as well and translated from English to French. Then, we sang. One of the men from Djibouti shared a lilting melody, which I quickly attempted to interpret into chords on my ukulele. We sang the refrain over and over in English and then in French. People began to join us, and our little group grew into a large circle. Children came bounding along, wanting to strum the little charango a volunteer from Italy had brought with him. A little boy, completely taken with the charango, held onto it tightly for a long while as we all sang through the song over and over again.
There was clapping and snapping. Another man joined in to help create a melody for the verses. We sang, our voices loud and strong. We were perfect in our unity, a small musical community in a worldwide current of uncertainty.