Afternoon Poem, November 15, 2014

It was 1962, I was ten years old

Somebody in my house had to go to the doctor or something

And I was in my aunt’s house

On the other side of town

Never been there after dark before

Never been there by myself

I don’t remember what I was doing

But I saw my uncle come in the back way

He was carrying a bowling ball in a case in one hand

And a cased guitar in the other

He did not see me

and he laid them down in the back room

beside the washer and dryer

Suzanne, he called

Come here, I want you to look at something

She came to the doorway, wearing an apron

Both hands full of kitchen work

What is it now? She said.

Lookahere

And he opened the guitar case

And lifted the glorious instrument into the light

The light was from a bald bulb hung from a wire over the washer

The polished top flashed light all over the walls of the laundry room

What have you done, she said

Went to the auction

You were supposed to be bowling

I know

But what

Well, I got word they was going to auction a few things off

So you went to the auction

Yeah, I did

What did you spend for that thing?

Have you ever seen anything like it, he asked her

Yes. I have . I have a guitar, you know.

 

But it ain’t like this one

 

It looks the same to me

What did you give for that thing?

 

Hundred dollars (this was 1962, mind you)

 

A hundred dollars.  We don’t have that kind of money.

I don’t know what I am going to do, she said

 

But this is the real thing

It ain’t like that thing you’ve got

This here is the same guitar they play on the Opry

I’ve seen ‘em

They didn’t know what they had, honey

Some guy who owned this thing died

This guitar is worth twice what I paid

It’ll keep going up

 

The point isn’t what it’s worth

It’s what we have

or don’t have, I should say.

 

He finally set the guitar back into the case and walked past her into the kitchen

When they were both gone from the room I opened the case again

And looked on that bright face of ancient, perfect spruce

And the fine red tint on the maple neck

I, then ignorant of frets and intervals,

brushed the strings and listened to the fine hum

resounding in that empty, silent room.

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