A child does not ask to emerge into the world.
Yet, when the time comes, she enters
Tender, delicate, uncomfortable into a cold, bright world.
From middle age, confident with experience,
I look back at the frightened child I must have been
and wonder what thoughts formed in her head.
That tender child lives within me, but I will never hear her speak.
In the morning rush, preoccupied
I trip over the grand-dog, eyes mournfully requesting a walk
from me, a poor substitute for his mom who dreams out of sight in the forbidden upstairs.
I lead him through the door,
Follow as he dashes towards the woods,
And encounter the beauty of silent midnight snow.
That tune she played: it caught my ear.
So sweet, so lovely! I listened as my body
reflected the beat, the drive of the bellows
and her fingers fleet on the keys.
Entranced, I did not think to capture with my phone
the notes and rhythms as they floated to my ears.
Alas! I will never hear that tune the same again.
at least two.
Three or four are fine,
and more, well, we don’t
turn away any contribution.
Jam is always better
when the making is shared.
Banjo, mandolin, guitar.
We need the rhythm, the unique flavors
of their strings and wood bodies.
One bass will do.
Or two if two will.
Always an autoharp. and sometimes
a harmonica or spoons or bones.
“Good enough for old time!” my friend John would say.
The trombone? He plays good rhythm
and toots discreetly towards the floor
reveling in our shared music-making.
Sometimes a clogger dances,
providing rhythm and joy with her feet and, later,
a story about a musical trip to Dublin during The Troubles,
complete with a whispered bomb threat
at a pub where her dancing ensured safety.
Did I mention the tunes?
Old time, from West Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky.
And sometimes not-so-old-time
from Chicago or Nashville or Quebec.
Their names remind us of stories:
Greasy Coat, Abe’s Retreat, Sadie at the Back Door,
Soldier’s Joy, Pays de Haut, Arkansas Traveler,
Cat Scratching A Pear Tree in Grandma’s Backyard.
I might have made up that last one
long ago when I could not remember
the tune I really wanted to start.
We are not English nor do we live in the country.
Yet in our everyday clothes and smooth-soled shoes
we dance together.
Delicate music swirls through the room
as we walk through the patterns.
Coaxed by the caller we join hands,
circle left, give and take, turn by the right,
go back to back.
For just a few hours the community suspends its everyday rules.
We dance with strangers, smile at everyone,
and gaze deeply into our partners’ eyes
if only to find a point of stillness
so that we will not be dizzy as we twirl.
In the dance we know that we are all graceful,
all capable of success, all fully accepted by each other.
And the music is always perfect.
“Dear hearts and gentle people”
A note found on the path.
I pick it up and hold it close
The one who wrote: what more would he have said
If time was on his side and he were not now dead?
The hearts to whom he spoke,
Gentle, so he said. Perhaps his mother? Sisters?
Or imagined caring friends?
The title of the poem is from a note written on a scrap of paper and found in Stephen Foster’s wallet at the time of his death in 1864.
Dear AJ! I miss your jarring call
Of “HEALP! HEALP!”, as if you were in thrall
To a fox endangering your brood.
I still lament the morning when I woke
To hear a “WHUMP!” outside the cabin door,
And then a silence and yet “WHUMP!” again.
I pushed the curtain back, peered through the pane
To see you stalking ’round my minivan
Suspicious of the rival you perceived.
You halted, froze that rival with your glare
Then backed away, raised up, and beat your wings
Propelling claws ahead to rip and tear.
Bearing the brunt of your attack
My car door groaned as claws scratched paint.
A trail of blood streaked redly ‘cross the door.
An adjuster called to hear the claim
That a peacock had caused damage to my car,
Looked closely, said “That’s BLOOD!”, and paid the bill.
Most swoon at peacock tails, and snap their shots,
But I recall a special, brilliant bird
Whose antics still bring laughter to my friends.