Saturday, May 23, 2015

Play On (In The Key Of G)

Play On (In The Key Of G)

She stands there with a gleam in her eyes
The silver metal of the harmonica
Folded in her tiny hands
And she smiles…
The type of smile that
Pulls and stretches across her face
The type of smile that probably hurts
But is unavoidable

She laughs in excitement
Then she brings the instrument to her lips
And joyfully blows 
A cascade of notes that pour into the air
Sounding like a mad organ player
Or an accordion flopping down the stairway

Her legs follow suit
Marching in wild, erratic steps
Off balance, and nearly toppling over
But she’s clinging to the harmonica
With all her might
And drawing notes through the reeds
With a ferocity 
Reserved for one possessed...

After all, she was spellbound 
Pulled in, as soon as she heard it
How could she not be?
When I was enchanted the same way
Back then, when I was a child...

She played on and on…
As a bubbling stream of
Both shrill and warm notes
Began reverberating between 
The confines of the moment
And deep echoes of the past
And instead of my kitchen
I was suddenly back in his...

He took two harmonicas down
From the top of the harvest-gold fridge
One for me, one for him
I probably wore the same face as my daughter
Eyes gleaming, a beaming grin
The hard plastic case of the Marine Band
Was placed into my hands and 
When I opened it, I could see
Matthias Hohner peering up from 
My reflection in the shiny cover plate

My grandfather took his and
Cupping his large hands around the harp
Spun out a medley of
Italian folksongs and 
Stephen Foster compositions
Giving me permission to join in 
Signaling me to blow or draw a note
With his pointed finger
While we played the
Chords and melodies of
“Oh! Susanna” and 
“Old Folks At Home”

We would play on and on
As my Grandma watched, smiling
We would play on and on
As I showed off for my parents
We would play on and on
As my brothers tugged my legs for their turn...
We would play on and on
For guests, relatives, celebrations
He would play
And I would play

I would play on and on
Becoming more nimble at
Blowing riffs beneath melodies
Breathing and blocking, while
Tasting the wooden comb
Swollen from salivating, and
Playing until the edges of my mouth were raw
I would play on and on
Yet never quite master the way
He would play a dancing tarantella 
Deftly shifting scales on his chromatic
I would play on and on...
Even after he passed on...

I had to play on without him...
I mourned him through the moody
Wistful rhythm of the Blues 
Bending my notes to infuse
Williamson, Walter
Wells, and Cotton
And when I had forgotten
How to live in the positive
I found my way back
From Talking Blues, like
Lee Jaffe on a Marley track
Resting my roots in reggae
Finding my voice like Dylan
Instilling pieces of 
Composed memories and
Explored aspirations
Into my own identity
I was finally ready to
Play the same song
I had learned long ago
But in a new style
It had been a while
So, I played on...

She played on and on
Parting the curtains of time
Pulling me back in like a note
Squeezed through the reed plate
“Daddy!... ah you ok?”
I forgot to play...
And so I did

Who knew that 
I would find him again
In my dear daughter
Just shy of two
Copying my every move
Vigorously playing 
The harmonica I gave her
Slapping the spit out
Against her leg
Cupping her hands
Waving her fingers
Prancing behind me
From room to room
Our own parade
For Mama and brother

Turning around
I stop to kneel down
And looking into her eyes
I see him
As we play a medley of
“The ABC’s” and 
“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”
Us three...
Together, in the key of G

Our doors to each other
Are unlocked by keys
Played on these
Marine Bands and Blues Harps
Our Gemini hearts
Born on Special 20’s
Together, we will play on and on...

(c) 2015

Written as a tribute to my daughter and my grandpa, both having birthdays on either side of mine:
May 21st - My grandfather, the late Edmond Gioielli
May 22nd - My birthday
May 23rd - My daughter, Makeda

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