Poem: The Voice

June Sawyers wrote this poem—as a way to record her experience— after listening to a musician named Andrew perform in Printers Row.

It came out of nowhere
At first we barely noticed
And then, a pause
Wait
Who is that?
We just had to stop and listen
A voice
We hear a voice
On a late Monday afternoon

But then we were confused
The voice sounded so professional, so . . . good
Was it a recording or live?

We strain to listen and then we recognize the familiar melodies
Sam Smith’s “Stay with Me”
The Righteous Brothers
What initially sounds like a Sam Cooke song is actually
Chris Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey”

And then we saw him
Standing outside Dearborn Station
A young man wearing a red t-shirt with black shorts
A small gathering listens to the makeshift concert
Young parents and their infant in a pram
A woman in a wheelchair
Who was he? Where did he come from?
And why here? Why now? At this moment?

A few minutes later
At the patio of the wine shop
Some just sat there
Oblivious to the voice
Lost in their own conversation
But how could they not be moved?
I continue to listen
The purity of the voice
The authentic emotion pouring out of the songs
Tears fall from my eyes
And then he is gone
A street musician with the voice of an angel

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June Sawyers

June Sawyers has published more than 25 books. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, New City, San Francisco Chronicle, and Stagebill. She teaches at the Newberry Library and is the founder of the arts group, the Phantom Collective.