This morning I woke to a song, and I played it again and again, and sang it off and on all day (when alone in the car or at home). It’s Rufus Wainwright singing Leonard Cohen’s song-prayer Halleluiah. But, as you’ll find out if you listen to it, this is no ordinary halleluiah, which is uttered in praise, as in the song I heard every Easter Mass growing up, “Jesus Christ is risen today, halleluiah!” Cohen’s halleluiah is broken, cracked, eroded, battered, wronged, shattered, trampled, hurt, and yet he sings it anyway. I see it as a cry in the dark to all that is imperfect and broken in this world, which is everything we can see. I wrote my own broken halleluiah last night at midnight, a little shattered child thing, to help me sleep. That halleluiah spoke to me as the sun rose in a dingy sky. It spoke to me as I drove down East Hill after visiting a woman suffering from lung cancer. For her, a broken halleluiah. I sang it as I steered the switch-turns of the road.
Halleluiah to the birch tree with the crooked branch. Halleluiah to the eight year-old boy bald from chemo. Halleluiah to the moose-chewed willow. Halleluiah to the woman down to one methadone pill a day. Halleluiah to this morning’s frozen ground. Halleluiah to the widow in the grocery store who let her hair go gray. To the mountain draped in a dirty cloud. To the family nursing a dying dog. Halleluiah to magpies and crows. To unanswered prayers. To cries in the night. To the rubble pile where a house once stood. To the one in yoga who curled up in child’s pose. To the high school kid going to the school nurse everyday for his pills. Halleluiah to rotten March snow. To a crab apple tree girdled by hares. Halleluiah to Prince William Sound, where grass grows up out of 22 year old oil.
I even danced a broken halleluiah tonight. I’ve been a self-conscious dancer my whole life, but tonight, alone, I let it all go. My two hours in the presence of the friend with lung cancer needed expression, but words just won’t suffice. So I danced it for her, and then I pulled off my sweater and shirt, pulled the prosthesis out of my bra, placed my hands over the naked scar, and danced a broken halleluiah for my missing breast. The backdrop of my mountain radiant in evening light, the billowing fogbank sliding along its flank: I danced my broken halleluiah to that.