March 2, 2015

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Acquisitions

From my mother I acquired the veneration of song.

We sang our way through the day my sisters and I,

crooning the Big Bopper’s Chantilly Lace

as we hung laundry on the clothesline

bedsheets snapping in the wind as if on cue.

My younger sister once belted out the entire version Hava Nagila

in church, breaking the silence just before the priest blessed the host,

knowing my mother, head bowed, secretly applauded her jubilant rendition.

 

From my father I take his need for rhythm.

Cal Tjader’s soul vibrations tapped out on the table.

Scattered syncopation.

Tumultuous timbre.

The louder the better.

 

From my Papa, blue-eyed man

whose whiskers scratched like sandpaper.

He hummed.

When he rocked me to sleep on the porch, he hummed

until it penetrated my dreams.

Like the om of a yogi,

or the sacred chant of a monk,

In tandem we hummed.

I learned to fill silence with a resonant wordless voice.

 

From my Uncle Richard I learned to play the guitar.

He said it is wise to hold the body just so.

To know the taut strings held against the wood.

Fingers sore and blistered

crawling like a spider up and down the neck.

Pressing.

Stretching.

Practicing the perfect scale.

My uncle showed me how to file my nails at precise angles,

to pluck Segovia’s Sonatina

Conjuring his wide palette of tone.

 

From my family I have learned

to follow the music in my soul.

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