A Poet's Kiss

Albuquerque poet Mary Oishi puts poems, pictures, and thoughts here for her family and friends, and for lovers of poetry everywhere.

Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States

Monday, November 23, 2009

redemption song

its voice was much like mine
alto, lower than the violins
i sat in rapt attention as
the man on stage played on
music so unlike the raucous mountain gospel
clapped in my sunday ears
no, these rich winds lifted me up from RD 2
from where a few familiar cars drove by
this music whooshed god off his throne
sat me there awhile without
the faintest air of disrespect

i knew that i must learn to play

the ones who raised me
never had to scold for me to practice
i gladly tried to glide that bow with
grace enough to lift me up again
out of eighth-grade-is-the-highest-you-can-go
out of this world where satan lurked
in all things fun and beautiful

one thousand days of private paradise until
a proud if stilted night when
"mom and dad"
awkward as catfish in their sunday finest
sat rigid in their friday seats
clapped only when the others did
for me up there so small
playing pizzicato next to college kids
in fiddler on the roof
long way from when i came home second grade
excited, begging

they agreed to let me play
an instrument whose name
they never heard before
what is it again, viola?

viola was my only place to go
where pearl harbor never happened
where white was not the standard
japanese was not a shame
where everyone could spend the night
unharmed despite their size
shape of their eyes or
color of their skin

words can be knives as sharp and swift
as swords from grownups mouths
the principal that fifth grade day
your parents must not care about you
very much they have not paid
you must surrender your viola
instructor like a guillotine chimes in
his overkill it's such a shame
good as you are

they brought home a big brown handled case
holding their hoped-for redemption
a plain old wurlitzer accordian
of yellowed celluloid not pearly black or red
like those italian ones i'd often seen
i put the straps around my sighing arms
taught myself to play out from the c chord button
with no rhinestone, just an unassuming
dent to mark its place

to this day accordians sound like disgrace to me

yet when i run across one in a thrift store
i can't resist the urge to play
to resurrect those long gone eyes so full of sorry
to play one happy little song that makes them smile
because they did the best they knew
because four strings are not
the only way to get to god

mary oishi
16 november 2009


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