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White Pine Sucker River: Poems 1970-1990

For Years My Father

For years my father practiced the violin: “What d’ya think, Rob, am I wasting my time sawing away on this hunk of wood?” I would lie on the couch listening to him, New York receding behind the glass panes of the living room. My mother of course had to listen to him play more than I, but she too found it a pleasure, not so much from enjoyment of the sound as from what the sound suggested of the pleasure he was having. Often he said that it was his meditation (trying to play in tune, keep the bow balanced and light) and when he died, at home, he had just finished playing Beethoven’s Spring Sonata with his brother Josef. My aunt and uncle had come over for dinner, and after dinner my aunt is talking to my mother (who is keeping rather silent, I think) and my father and my uncle are playing. When they finish the last movement of the Spring Sonata my mother asks my father if he doesn’t think it’s time to stop, and he smiles and says Yes and dies in the chair where he’s sitting, violin and bow still in his hands. Later my uncle tells me that while my father plays, “It’s as though he’s never been sick.”

Copyright © 1993 by Robert Alexander