This poem was written for Civic Saturday on March 12, 2022.

Civic Symphony (A rehearsal for “the real thing”)

By Hakim Bellamy


YouTube preview of Hakim Bellamy speaking.


There’s a familiar saying
that goes something like this:

What makes music, music
is not the notes themselves

…but actually
the spaces between them.

One note
does not a song make.

Those bodybags of battlefield bugles
could never replace the sound
of a single

beating heart.

And unlike the nature
of modern day politics
it is incredibly easy
to tell the difference
between a concerto

or one person just making noise.

Sure, it is more than possible
to make music alone.

In fact, it’s sometimes easier
to play for the audience of one

we have in our mind.

And though
that is plenty to fill a chest cavity
it is not how you fill a church.

There will always be the occasional solo
made noticeably more dynamic
by the difference in tenor

and tone

between it
and the rest of the band.

But there is no such thing
as an anthem

for one.

By definition
it is a machination of many.

A thing that can only exist
in the company of each other.

A thing
that must be collectively conjured,
like prayers that become more and more true
the more that people join and join in
in unison…

because G_d
is more Android than algorithm.

And we all know what that means.
It means G_d has really terrible
bluetooth headphones.

What if this, right here
right now, is actually how
is Democracy works?

The space between
the elections.

Where we too often
find ourselves seated together,
both sides of the aisle

spectating in silence.

How is that any different
than being apart?

I like to believe
that America is sheet music
that cannot “happen”
without us.

Without you.
Without me.
Without the poor.
Without the pious.

It is folk.
It is funk.
It is jazz.
It is gospel.

And in a country
that routinely selects leaders
who cannot read music
it is imperative that all of us

even those of us
who do not know how to sing
put down our phones
and our guns

and help yourself to a tamborine
or learn how to play
the flippin’ spoons.

Because when I am president,
there will be no “chicken in every pot.”
There will be a string quartet
outside of every single polling place…

their setlists
striking the perfect balance between
“playing down the Titanic”
and Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March.”

A Midsummer’s Night marrying of us
to an American Dream.

And though the music they make,
on those election days where they play

and pray,

however infrequently,
will burn radiant…

it is only because of how diligently they practiced
on all the days
that they considered themselves

in between.

Learn more about Hakim Bellamy or Civic Saturday.