Over the years, I have seen many people find a voice for their soul through song. In my volunteer and nonprofit work, I have had the privilege of guiding many who are healing with cancer, or facing death and loss, through a cathartic process of song-making. My memories of these experiences resonate with this poem by William Ayot, after which this piece is named:

Anyone Can Sing

by William Ayot

Anyone can sing. You just open your mouth,
and give shape to a sound. Anyone can sing.
What is harder, is to proclaim the soul,
to initiate a wild and necessary deepening:
to give the voice broad, sonorous wings
of solitude, grief, and celebration,
to fill the body with the echoes of voices
lost long ago to bravery, and silence,
to prise the reluctant heart wide open,
to witness defeat, to suffer contempt,
to shrink, lose face, go down in ignominy,
to retreat to the last dark hiding-place
where the tattered remnants of your pride
still gather themselves around your nakedness,
to know these rags as your only protection
and yet still open—to face the possibility
that your innermost core may hold nothing at all,
and to sing from that—to fill the void
with every hurt, every harm, every hard-won joy
that staves off death yet honours its coming,
to sing both full and utterly empty,
alone and conjoined, exiled and at home,
to sing what people feel most keenly
yet never acknowledge until you sing it.
Anyone can sing. Yes. Anyone can sing.

As a performer and composer, Maryliz Smith brings the magic of music to Callanish retreats. Most recently, she has joined with Callanish’s Danielle Schroeder to engage retreat participants in an intuitive process of song-making. The post below first appeared on Maryliz’s own music blog, where you can find more of her compositions combined with poetry or prose. You can listen to “Anyone Can Sing” on her website.