Sunday, January 10, 2010

Music and Memory, Part 7: Grace

Soprannie, my dear friend and colleague from my opera days, told me of going down to the basement as a young girl and finding her mother, a violinist who had stopped playing to care for her young family, weeping as she practiced her old instrument in secret.

She could have written this poem, by Frannie Lindsay:


Praise my plain young mother for leaving
her husband's bed at four in the morning
fumbling around for her bifocals
carting her stained velour slippers
down the raw-grained stairs not tying
her robe sliding her violin from between
the magazine rack and the firewood
easing past the mantelpiece scattered
with wedding portraits

praise the caked galoshes drying beside
the basement door swollen away
from its frame and the top step's narrow slat
praise her large bare feet
their tough and knotty bunions
the cool of her hand on her sheet music
praise the scotch tape on the spine
of her Bach and its weakening glue
her penciled maiden name

praise the steadfast ladderback chair
and the music stand there in the basement
the set tubs the damp socks
and undershirts draped too close
to her shoulders praise her shoulders
limber and painless for three brief hours
praise the rosin's glide down her bow
the throaty fifths the sacrament
of her tuning

praise the measure she counted aloud
and the downbeat's breath-lunge
praise her calloused and lovely fingerpads
the noteprints the sixty-watt bulb
the mud-plashed screen through which
the unsorrowing ends of the night slipped in
and although she did not ask to be touched
praise how they lifted up the brittle
wisps of her perm.

-- from The Writer's Almanac

1 comment:

mrsdarwin said...

Beautiful, and achingly evocative.