You Begin

Published by Roger Dean Publishing Company     
Catalog # 15/2442R
Part of the Janet Galvan Treble Choral Series

SSA/solo cello
Secular text in English by Margaret Atwood
Difficulty rating (1-5): 3
Duration 4:10


 listen to You Begin

erformed by
the Illinois State University Belle Voix,
Karyl Carlson, director

Premiered April 2003 by the Central Bucks County High School - West Choirs, Joseph Ohrt, Director as part of the "Music of Chicago Composers" concert at the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago

Margaret Atwood is best known for her novels such as The Handmaidís Tale. Her poetry is often very adult, powerful and raw. This poignant poem, however, conveys all the emotions a parent has as they start down the path of teaching their small child about the world. Having a cello part made it possible for me to help the vocal parts dance, and to have an instrument hold anchor as the piece veers into some very interesting polytonal territory!


You begin this way:
this is your hand,
this is your eye,
that is a fish, blue and flat
on the paper, almost
the shape of an eye.
This is your mouth, this is an O
or a moon, whichever
you like. This is yellow.
Outside the window
is the rain, green
because it is summer, and beyond that
the trees and then the world,
which is round and has only
the colors of these nine crayons.
This is the world, which is fuller
and more difficult to learn than I have said.
You are right to smudge it that way
with the red and then
the orange: the world burns.
Once you have learned these words
You will learn that there are more
words than you can ever learn.
The world hand floats above your hand
like a small cloud over a lake.
The word hand anchors
your hand to this table,
your hand is a warm stone
I hold between two words.
This is your hand, these are my hands, this is the world,
which is round but not flat and has more colors
than we can see.
It begins, it has an end,
this is what you will
come back to, this is your hand.



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