A boy in Kentucky hears his uncle
fiddle through his nights. Gypsy
tunes and Irish reels riff
in his mind and stick.
Someone gifts him a mandolin.
He fingers the neck
takes the open fifths
into the choir of his heart.
He learns the strings, first
strumming and plucking
then brushing and picking.
They vibrate, then ring,
sing back to the camp fires
in Romania, back to the suppers
of lamb and mint, back
to the baby dozing
as her father unwraps
his cobza and casts out
a tune for the rising moon.
The Unclouded Day
If the bedrooms are polished and smelling of
Pledge, sometimes before another washing
must be gathered, my grandmother lets breakfast
dry on the dishes, drops her body onto the piano
stool to play the only hymn she knows by heart.
She could be chopping wood. The force
of her forearms and bosom is ample
as her vision of that home beyond the skies.
She doesn’t embellish like some players
who let their fingers fly past the melody
like a ragtime beat out in a rowdy saloon.
My grandmother’s hymn is rich
like her pies, clean as her home, solid
as her steps marching through a cloudless day.