Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2015  Vol. 14 No. 2
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Family Music

Though we had no shower to sing in
my mother hummed in the heat of her bath.
My father might whistle while fixing a hinge
or caulking a pane. But after she turned

into ashes, quiet lifted like smoke
through our house—not the quiet you have
after a truck roars by, but wood creak and
groan, or the terrible drip of a faucet.

Sometimes, over morning coffee, he sat
with the radio playing, just drumming
his fingers on the tabletop, staring
into the backyard. Once after a song,

he groaned and said, No tunes like old tunes,
maybe to me. Nuns had shushed me when I tried
to blend my voice with the choir at Mass.
My mother had laughed. Don’t be sad, she said,

No one in this house can carry a tune
even in a bushel basket. So why
even try when I drive my son to school?
Just to tease him into saying, Quit it?

But alone, I’ll sometimes sing a few lines
from McCartney’s “Let It Be” when I make
the bed and smooth my parents’ counterpane
against fathoms of air, trying for music

with a feeling like his. Dad’s humming came
from deep inside when he was painting,
say, a window frame, or even a white wall,
leaning close, as if toward someone not there.  end  

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