American Life in Poetry: Column 248


Many if not all of us have had the pleasure of watching choruses of young people sing. It’s an experience rich with affirmation, it seems to me.  Here is a lovely poem by Tim Nolan, an attorney in Minneapolis.

At the Choral Concert

The high school kids are so beautiful
in their lavender blouses and crisp white shirts.
They open their mouths to sing with that
far-off stare they had looking out from the crib.
Their voices lift up from the marble bed
of the high altar to the blue endless ceiling
of heaven as depicted in the cloudy dome—
and we—as the parents—crane our necks
to see our children and what is above us—
and ahead of us—until the end when we
are invited up to sing with them—sopranos
and altos—tenors and basses—to sing the great
Hallelujah Chorus—and I’m standing with the other
stunned and gray fathers—holding our sheet music—
searching for our parts—and we realize—
our voices are surprisingly rich—experienced—
For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth
and how do we all know to come in
at exactly the right moment?—Forever and ever
and how can it not seem that we shall reign
forever and ever—in one voice with our beautiful
children—looking out into all those lights.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2008 by Tim Nolan from his most recent book, The Sound of It, New Rivers Press, 2008, by permission of the author and publisher. First printed in Ploughshares, Winter 2007-2008. Introduction copyright © 2020 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.