Poem: The Promise of Music

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The Promise of Music

The guitars hang in the store.
Steel strings. Laquered bodies.
Phallic struts lined with silver or gold.
Some have knobs. Some do not.

Beautiful things. Magical
with their promise of music,
wands for the wizards who play,
ready and waiting to weave their spells.

“This one,” the clerk says, “is a blues guitar.”
How does he know?
To you they are all the same,
steel, wood and fiberglass, magic.

Did I say magic? Each able to create
any genre, any music the player imagines.
It lives not in the box and strings,
but in the mind and fingers of the magician.

Your mother took up the guitar in her seventies,
learning to play yet another instrument in her waning years.
Magic. Always magic.
When she died, you inherited the guitar.

Your fingers are stiff. They feel older than hers.
You have started to learn in fits and starts.
Your fingers remain stiff. The magic eludes you.
The guitar remains no more than the promise of music.

“This one” the clerk tells you, “is a blues guitar.”
So is the one languishing in your living room.
Blue for the music unplayed. You flex your fingers.
They are stiff.

About this poem.

The picture was taken at Asbury Park, in my friend Donna Nicosa’s favorite music store.

I really do have my mother’s guitar. I have learned five chords, no more. And none of it has turned into music yet.


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