September 13, 2017

Three poems by Marianne Lyon: "Grandma's Harmonica," "I Lost My Gift for Being Alone,' and "Never Never Loved"

Marianne Lyon has been a music teacher for 39 years. After teaching in Hong Kong she returned to the Napa Valley and has been published in various literary magazines and reviews. Nominated for the Pushcart Prize 2016. She is a member of the California Writers Club, Healdsburg Literary Guild. She is an Adjunct Professor at Touro University Vallejo California

Grandma’s Harmonica

Sometimes it lives on high shelf
          above her white kitchen sink
                    between nail file and silver letter opener

Sometimes it’s tucked in her apron pocket
          when she shakes it out, taps it against her thigh
                    out fly crumbs, thready fuzz

Sometimes when we coax her to play a ditty
          her curved hands mold around and it seems her limber
                    wrists are forever inventing new ways to dance

Sometimes she breathes into it softly
          trying for an effect
                     one phrase over and over

Sometimes thin penetrating tones
          a violin feeling
                    float about for a time

Sometimes she makes harmonica cry like a bagpipe
          round holy chords like an organ
                    bitter skirl like grandpa’s reed pipe

Sometimes she plays waltzes from the Old Country
          pinches her lips, gently taps right foot one-two-three
                    linoleum answers under soft beat of her shoe

Sometimes her eyebrows lift and drop to fast rhythms
          And she begins to dance around pine kitchen table
                    in a trance, a dream, back across the ocean and

Sometimes we begin to imitate her leanings and whirls
          follow her hips, whistle wind through our pursed lips
                    hold easy-to-carry-harmonica in our empty hands

           (Previously published in Ibis Head Review.)

I lost my gift for being alone

here I go
onto rooted path
near my house
like the road
I walked as a cherished child
brushing against families
of wild flowers
with innocent pink palms
filled up with melting pleasure
of a scolding hawk
here I go
on our familiar route
we walked
before dusk
talking of
simple tasks
tubers and rising
of wild irises
a nest above
with a hundred sticks
onto our byway
two feet
not his
onto rooted path
his hand
brushing mine
and I start
to hum
unclench a dormant song
I sang very young
hungry for
wing-glide of a hawk

Never Never Loved

          "I never loved him"
I heard her say to Mom when I just turned seven
dressing dolls in Grams fragrant kitchen
Grandpa just passed
in back bedroom
can’t remember his dying face
only the darkened room

          “I never loved him
           I always loved George Mickich”
Sis would carry his evening pill
I would bring in half-filled glass of water
window painted with stars
black jagged mountains
his slow hollow breathing

          “I never loved him
          I always loved George Mickich
          I was only seventeen, what did I know?”
But they had three children
a long life on Washington Street
she would pull him up from rocking chair
unabashed tenderness
giggle and bounce on flowered carpet
a polka singing from walnut Victrola

          “I never loved him
          I always loved George Mickich
          I was only seventeen, what did I know
          Pa said Grandpa could have me when I was seventeen”
I hear grandpa’s rhythmic hammering
bedecked in paint-stained overalls
touching up chipped window pains
white-washing the pickets, replacing, straightening

          “I never loved him”
I remember that seven-year-old afternoon
smelling walnut bread rising
inhaling those words and I have abided
with her revelation, my whole life
still transfixed
that such a little story
made such a wonder

(Previously published in Ibis Head Review.)

© Marianne Lyon

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