What Is This New Voice?

Long before I wrote songs or books, I wrote poetry.  Lots of it.

I was that sensitive teenager whose heart poured out into the pages of her journal. Somewhere along the line, I started creating little chapbooks of them.  There are now five collections.

My hard drive now contains a file of 283 of my poems.  And I wrote #284 at the Images and Voices of Hope Conference last weekend at a prompt from our reflection leader, the wise and generous Mark Nepo.

Here is a poem from 1992 that celebrates the brave emergence of my own full voice.  It is the ancestor of the book that is being released next week.

 My Voice #2

I shed my clown mask for good —
the one with entreating eyebrows that leak apology.

Here I come —
striding out into the bright light,
clear-eyed and buck naked.
Once the cloak of feigned incompetence falls,
it never fits quite right again.

“There’s no turning back!”
sings my bounding heart
and my lungs stretch another centimeter
to take inside
more space
and more
and more…
until my chest blooms into flame.

There is a new force moving through me:
I run with my feet underground.
I piss thundershowers and spit lava
My eyes are sky sponges,
exchanging blue for blue in scathing riffs.
My body sprouts feathers.
The sweet cry in my throat burns and soothes like brandy in reverse,
heat rising from belly to mouth.
I shake with the power of sound.

What is this new voice?

It is a company of friends
a spinning galaxy
an angel hootenanny
a viper pit
a slow motion volcano —
Made from pillows of God’s breath and leaps of faith.

© Barbara McAfee  1992


About Barbara McAfee

Barbara is a voice coach, singer/songwriter, keynote speaker, and author who merges lessons from 12 years in organization development with the transformational power of sound. Her book, Full Voice: The Art & Practice of Vocal Presence (Berrett-Koehler Publishers) was a #1 Amazon bestseller in Business Communication. The book is based on her 25 years as a voice coach, supporting people from many professions in learning how to access the full power and expression of the voice in service to their work and relationships. Barbara’s musical keynotes blend practical content, sophisticated humor, and thought-provoking questions on topics including voice, leadership, and engagement. She was “the band” for Margaret Wheatley’s Women’s Leadership Revival Tour, which visited 15 North American cities. She also appears with authors Parker Palmer and Peter Block. Barbara has produced seven CD's of mostly original music and is founder of the Morning Star Singers, a volunteer hospice choir in the Twin Cities. She lives across the street from the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
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