All these years, and you would not play it for me.
Sometimes, you would reach for it,
rest it across your thighs, and strum, haphazardly,
a few incomplete chords.
Why won’t you play? I wondered, afraid to ask,
but wishing for it as much as I longed to hear
you speak in your mother tongue.
(You were washing the dishes,
and looking out the window-
Say something for me?
And, gently, you spoke words
that swooped lazily across the sky
caught low in my backyard.
I asked what you had said,
and you told me you had made a poem
about the playful sweep of a brown bird
from walnut tree to roof.)
One time, you plucked carefully,
with the gentlest of moth feet,
and you sang a lullaby.
But, oh! so quickly, it was over,
and all that was left behind
the way that you can hear a windchime
in the distance, and stop, in silence,
to wait, unsure, for the sound to repeat itself.
I don’t know why you decided,
after so long,
to lift the timber torso onto your lap
and start to play,
with your big, calloused hands-
the big-knuckled, square hands of a
Your square fingertips fumbled the strings
and you bent your silver-fox head forward
and started to whistle- breathily-
the tune of a sad and haunting song.
And then you started to sing.
And then it was one song after the other,
and, soon, I sang along with you,
and, after all these years, it was a communion,
it was the blameless coming together
we had never expected to have.
I didn’t want it to stop.
It was like when you find a white wallaby
grazing in your backyard by the sea, on an island,
in the dark, and you stand, frozen,
your bare feet on buffalo grass already icy with frost,
and you hold your breath,
not wanting to startle the creature-
alert, and white as a bowl of milk in the night,
and poised, ready to halt, to look in your direction
and spring away, barely ruffling the leaf litter
like one of those fleeting things
that you know may never happen again,
but that remain in your memory,
glowing and milk-white.