Don’t Look Away: requiem for a world that never was

a new work for voices & orchestra

text by meaghan boeing

music by John Conahan


I. Don’t Look Away

Come closer, friend,


hold my hand if you need,

just don’t look away.


If you have only

just now

opened your eyes,




If you have been riveted

for years,

frozen in shock,

unsure of your place,




If your heart is breaking,

but your mind resisting,


you are welcome, too.




link arms,

breathe with us,

be with us.


Just don’t look away.


II. Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter.


All Lives Matter.


All Lives cannot Matter


Black Lives Matter.


All Lives will Matter


Black Lives Matter.


How can you say that

all lives matter,

when Black lives are in



And they are in



Do not be afraid to

stop and see

a system

set up to harm

Black lives,

as if they do not matter.


When Black lives matter,

all lives matter.


All lives do matter,


Black lives must matter.


Listen. Hear.


Then shout, cry, and scream




Black Lives Matter.


III. Protest

If you ask politely, and no one listens,

What Then?


If you bring your reason, your knowledge, your passion,

and there is

No Response,


if you then shout to get their attention, and no one listens,

How do you feel?


If you scream,

and there is



if you are ignored,

expected to fall,

expected to fail,

told by the Silence that none of this is for you,


you might take to the streets,

and lock arms

a thousand strong,

a million strong,

ten million strong,

as one.


You might,

risking your life,

walk out into a


that thinks

you’re a threat,


when you’re not,


you just need





You might,

in your sorrow and rage,

raise your fist in the air,



out of solidarity,


or else no one will ever truly see you.


After all,

they made that clear

when all you were doing was asking

for a small part

of the

American Dream.



IV. Small Steps

I see I’ll never understand,

but I can listen,

and I can learn.

I can do better,


for justice,

for right.


I cannot unsee,

I will not unhear.


It is late. I am late.

But I am here.


I will trip and fall and make mistakes,

but I will get up,

and keep moving forward.


I know

“I will never finish the work,”


                  I also know that

“I cannot abandon it.”


“None of us is free until all of us are free.”


It is not enough.

It will never be enough.


It is a step.


Source Quotes:

“You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” – Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), 2:21

“Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” – Emma Lazarus (first published use of the phrase)

“Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”-  Fanny Lou Hamer



V. Tear Gas/Day of Judgment

No Justice, No Peace! Black Lives Matter! Say Her Name! Say Their Names!


Dies irae, dies illa,
solvet saeclum in favilla,


quantus tremor est futurus,

quando iudex est venturus,


Mors stupebit, et natura,

cum resurget, creatura,

iudicanti responsura.


liber scriptus proferetur,
in quo totum continetur,

The day of wrath, that day,
will dissolve the world into ash,


how much trembling there will be,

when the judge comes,


Death and nature will marvel
when all creation rises
to answer the Judge.


the written book will be brought forth
in which all is contained.


Three white officers, holding tear gas canisters:

Why can’t they just

go home?


Why can’t they just



Officer #1 (Tenor):

Look at them.

They feel like they are owed something by this world.

That’s not how it works.

I got where I am because I worked hard.

I didn’t have it easy

just because of the color of my skin.

That’s ridiculous!                                                  Why?

We have laws,

and we made laws to help them!     It’s not enough!

Years ago!

There’s no such thing as “systemic racism”!

                                              There is systemic racism!

These people…

they’ll get what they deserve.

Disrespecting me.

Blue Lives Matter!                       Black Lives Matter!


Officer #2 (Soprano):

I just want to be home.

I don’t want to hurt anyone.

I would speak up, but no one would listen.

That’s just the way it is.

Nothing is changing.

Maybe it needs to be that way.

For us.

For our safety.

For our lives.


I help people.

Most of the time.

I want to help people.

The good ones.

So I do what I have to do.


Officer #3 (Baritone):

I just don’t know.

That was wrong, what they did to that man.

This is wrong. Using tear gas!

Why can’t this all just go away?

Listen, listen, listen, listen.


Get in the streets,

Stay in the streets,

Speak in your homes, your places of work, worship and play.


Listen to the leaders, these powerful, strong voices.


Talk about the original sin of this nation:

the enslavement and oppression of Black people,

discrimination in housing and jobs and voting.


All legal,

All still with us,

Too long legitimate to be erased easily.

White privilege passed down through generations

Like heirloom quilts with stories stitched in the squares.


Get in “good trouble.”


Yes, dream, but also





Grab the “moral arc of the universe” and bend it toward justice.


Our children and our children’s children and our children’s children’s children,

they will judge us on what we do today,

where we stand

where we walk

what we change.


Get in the streets.

Stay in the streets.


Source Quotes:

“Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” – John Lewis

“I have a dream…” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“…the arc bends toward justice, but it only bends toward justice because people pull it towards justice. It doesn’t happen on its own.” –  Eric Holder



VI. Offering

What do I have to offer?

To this struggle,

these four hundred years of ugly history?


Four hundred years.


I offer my ears to listen,

my mind to comprehend,

my hands to work,

my voice to lift up the cries of the oppressed.


I offer what’s mine.


I offer my all.


I offer my arms to wrap around

the pain

and hurt


of hearts

too tired

to break

one more time.


VII. Lacrimosa *


weep for the world
that never was.


We were told
that to see color was wrong,
but we were

failed by



Color is everywhere:


see instead
see the colors,

and listen
to their voices and their tears and their struggles and their triumphs,



let go

of the world

that never was.


Note: Lacrimosa has been edited from the version seen in the archived video. For the original text, visit the Ithaca College School of Music Theatre & Dance archive.



It’s not going
to cost you


but, then,


you paid nothing
for it


This power
created by a lie
that those
Americans before America
and ran with,


using the lives
digesting their languages and their songs and their dances and their stories
into fuel
for building wealth
for the white few,


then growing this lie
so large
that it could not be argued with

(they argued),


that it must be true,

for these were good people,


weren’t they?



And today,
there are good people
descended from


(aren’t they?)


how so many loved and cherished
could harbor
such evil.



So these good people live with lies,


the scaffold on which sits wealth
(if we have it)
and certainly the privilege

(if we have it)


walk the streets in peace
buy a home
get an education
choose leaders


the threat of
from the state or
from neighbors


and without the possibility
that every interaction
has the
to turn


(for they
are good


Good people protecting memory with lies.


The system is a lie.



For if neighbors,


believed evil,


what does that make
the power they passed down?



Abandon it, then.
Use that privilege to destroy itself.


It will not cost you nothing.


But it will give you everything.




Because it will bring
the sweet song of


IX. On Peace

The struggle continues,


our responsibility,
our right,

what’s right.



Listen more.


     What’s right.


Do more.

Do better.


     What’s right.


We have asked
Black and Brown people
to carry our emotional weight
for too long.


     What’s right.


Bring them to the center.
Comfort them.
Do not ask for comfort.


This is our labor.

This is our work.


So we will work. And work. And work. And work.


And one day,
there will be rest.


But peace must be earned,
where there is no justice,
there cannot be peace.






     Black Lives Matter.
     Don’t Look Away.




Copyright © 2023 by meaghan boeing

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.