Poem by Jan C. Grossman

The violin teacher was only a child herself.

Because her father was famous

She wore her nails short

For the sake of the strings

And ached

For a Stradivarius.

Her pupils adored her

Because she was red-haired

And her voice was both husky and sweet,

And, though they could not say,

Because her soul was at her fingertips.

Later, she gave up music

For retail.

Her father did not speak to her for years,

And the man she married plays the harmonica

At birthday parties.


Now on the day she gets the black case

From the attic

And gives the violin to the boy who mows the lawn,

She sits in her quiet kitchen

And reads in the newspaper

Of the man from Vilnius

Who wakes every morning

Smelling chestnuts from his childhood

And weeping for the lost sounds of the Lithuanian song

He used to hear from his bedroom window.

She moves through her silent kitchen

Her fingers aching

Setting the oven timer

Turning on the blender

Just for the music of it.

American Arts Quarterly, Fall 2011, Volume 28, Number 4