Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sacred...the Drum

The rolls of drumbeat bound from hardwood floor, against ivory ceiling, next to teal walls. I'm surrounded. The pulse. The pulse.

They strike the sacred drum for her.
sacred timbrel--
Stand forth before holy Inanna.

from "The Holy One," a Sumerian praise poem

My friend Vera died last night. She was beautiful. She savored living. She sang; she sang. Her rhythm bounced off those around her: off Terry, the boys, Clyde and Jake, her kids, us. She was lyrical.

Awhile back I held her hands, cherished the instant, was grateful for the chance to tell her what a vibrant, beautiful soul she is. Now she's gone. The drums beat.

The beat has weaned me before. The big conga on the deck, pounding out a grief deeper than I could fathom. Pulse, pulse, pulling from somewhere a muscle. Pulling from somewhere a tendon, something too deep to be seen, to be felt, to be articulated. Grief deeper than the earth's yolk, miles beneath the mantle, next to, probably, the reddened core that keeps the planet spinning. Grief none could see, hear, feel, without the help of a taut, framed skin.

The book "When the Drummers Were Women" chronicles a time when a society trusted the rhythmic movement of its women to transport folks from one milestone to another, to ease the pain of loss, to help comprehend the incomprehensible. The book's been next to my drums for years, reminding me that the simple act of beating repeatedly on a surface has sacred roots.

I'm turning to my drums tonight, not to repeat the lovely parade of sound I heard last night at a jazz concert, not to regale in the ecstatic beat of my favorite salsa/hip-hop band, but to beat the pulse of grief and of celebration. You are gone, my beautiful friend, but my beat pulls your pulse, your memory, your image from deep within. With me, always, Vera, always.


  1. I am so sorry for the loss of your friend.

  2. Susan, please accept my sympathy for the loss of your dear friend.