1. YOUNG-MASON, JEANINE EdD, RN, CS, FAAN, Column Editor

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Throughout his prodigious career as a composer, jazz saxophonist, poet, teacher, witness, and world traveler, Frederick Tillis has touched many lives with his ability to keenly divine and interpret life. As an expressive artist, he has given generously of his talents and time to individuals of all ages in long-term care and hospitals who have little or no access to the arts. Among his many books of poetry that uniquely record his experiences, the poems in Bitter Harvest may resonant most with clinicians. He has said in the Forword "[horizontal ellipsis]I believe grace is the gift to reconcile differences between bitter and sweet times. It is the spirit to endure hardships with courage to survive. It gives us the will to ride the turbulent tides of changing season, and imagine how salt sometimes makes the fruit sweeter, and for good reason."


In "Healing Sounds," Tillis captures the essence of music's mysterious power to heal[horizontal ellipsis]when music lessens spiritual and physical pain. Melodic notes engage as the rubato tempo mimics the rhythms of the human body. The expressive artist creates and performs in response to the listener who resonates to the music and both are graced.


Healing Sounds


What is there in music


besides mystery and doubt,


that soothes pain of the sick


moving from sorrow to joyful shout?


What shields me like a knit sweater


as winds shift from mild to cold,


and my body longs for something better when warmer rhythms can calm my soul?


When gentle sounds of falling waters bend


time is suspended in the song's tender rubato,


my pulse meets heart before breath comes to an end


and what follows is healing hope to cope,


with dreams of yesterday and tomorrow.1



Tillis' "Harvesting, No. 3 Faith" is a hard-hitting poem that reveals the tragedies that he has witnessed in the American South, Africa, and elsewhere. He urges us to remember that it is only through the mysterious power of humanity's love that hope can emerge. And it is hope that we all crave and desperately need.


Harvesting (3) Faith


"Those who have sown in tears shall reap in joy."


(Psalm 126:5)


Will the tree and the fruit it bears yield bitter or sweet fruit? Should the cruel tree, where bodies have been hung, stoned, burnt, and pierced, be saved or uprooted? Is it true that there will forever be wars and rumors only


of a lasting peace? How do we explain


a love that does not fade before or after death? These may all be things beyond flesh. Maybe they are the colors and sounds that mute pain.


They may be the flowers and fragrances that heal. Or they may be wings of shadows


and clouds that yield a gleaning dream that will not pass. A light of hope that lingers


and saves us for the sake of our souls.2





1. Tillis FC. Healing sounds. In: Bitter Harvest. Amherst: P & P Publications; 2001:75. [Context Link]


2. Tillis FC. Harvesting, (3) Faith. In: Bitter Harvest. Amherst: P & P Publications; 2001:70. [Context Link]