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Wednesday, June 20, 2007 04:35 am

People's Poetry

Jacqueline Jackson presents

Untitled Document musicpoem # 4

a saturday morn I was maybe
eleven I sat in the echoing
auditorium of whitewater’s
normal school my violin case
alongside me I’d be on that stage
in a few hours my fiddle tucked
under my chin my damp hand on
the fingerboard my bow pray not
ricocheting with nervousness as
I played my prepared piece before
the impassive judges the ones now
here were piano ones I listened
as thirty two children mostly girls
one by one came across the
vast stage to the huge black
grand piano each settled onto
the bench waited for the judges’
nod then played fur elise I don’t
remember what piece I played
or how I fared but I have never
forgotten one note of fur elise

© Jacqueline Jackson 2007

Each of the senses has a way of evoking time and place. In this bittersweet poem by Jeffrey Harrison of Massachusetts, birdsong offers reassurance as the speaker copes with loss.
Walking past the open window, she is surprised by the song of the white-throated sparrow and stops to listen. She has been thinking of the dead ones she loves — her father who lived over a century, and her oldest son, suddenly gone at forty-seven — and she can’t help thinking she has called them back, that they are calling her in the voices of these birds passing through Ohio on their spring migration. . . because, after years of summers in upstate New York, the white-throat has become something like the family bird. Her father used to stop whatever he was doing and point out its clear, whistling song. She hears it again: “Poor Sam Peabody Peabody Peabody.”
She tries not to think, “Poor Andy,” but she has already thought it, and now she is weeping. But then she hears another, so clear, it’s as if the bird were in the room with her, or in her head, telling her that everything will be all right.
She cannot see them from her second-story window —
they are hidden in the new leaves of the old maple, or behind the white blossoms of the dogwood —
but she stands and listens, knowing they will stay for only a few days before moving on.
Poem copyright © 2006 by Jeffrey Harrison. Reprinted from Incomplete Knowledge (Four Way Books, 2006), with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved. Introduction copyright © 2006 by The Poetry Foundation. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Ted Kooser served as the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2004-2006. For more information, go to www.americanlifeinpoetry.org.
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