In The Grain
What would it have cost back then
and how long had she spoken of wanting it?
Such a luxury. It didn’t chop or mow
or plant or harvest the plantings,
but was nearly big as a hayrake
and had to come by train
and be put off at the little store
the tracks ran by. The couplings clanged
and four men heaved to lift its crate
to the store’s creaking porch.
It was odd as a throne there, taking up
so much space, lording over the plain-dressed
who came for sugar and flour
and a string of licorice if they felt flush.
They came for it with a horse-drawn wagon
and went slow with the load,
a singular parade along the rutted road
that played it a bit, buzzed the taut strings
and she glancing back, smiling, at the song
it already knew, chiming from its good cabinet.
Her hands caressed it, then years of hands,
all touching the tunes where they were to be touched.
The last time it was moved, to the great granddaughter,
the tuner said the sound board was warped,
too old really to be anything but a picture stand.
But she couldn’t let it go, its fine wood grain
like an old portrait, sepiaed, showing
its antique craft, its age spots and fades.
She had a carpenter come and look
and yes he thought he could use it,
and the table turned out beautifully,
the top with the design where music books had propped.
Some evenings when the dishes are cleared
and everyone else gone off to their occupations
she sits back down and places her hands
and practices her silence, the long song,
the wanting of it, the touch of years.