Your fingers tremble
as you lift
the fork up to your mouth.
Your lips begin to bite
the cake
long before it reaches them.

Your smell is strong
with urine,
and your clothes,
buttons missing, are spotted
with food.

Your eyes are dim, and they say
your memory is gone,
and that your head
is full of a language
you haven’t
spoken for eighty-five years.

But when the violin
your father made is lifted
from its case,
your eyes light up, and
with a trembling finger
you point out

each kind of wood in it,
and you explain
in great detail
how with his hands
he shaped and glued it
and made it what it is.

No one plays it
any longer.
It hangs from a nail
pounded high
up on the wall, covered
with dust.
You once played it.
Perhaps in your memory
you still hear
the music it can make.

Your fingers tremble
as they move,
grandfather, and your eyes
are dim. But your memory,
though faulty,
has places in it
where music is heard.

~ ~ ~

I wrote this poem in 1973 after meeting a friend’s grandfather. The poem was published in The North Country Anvil in Minnesota in 1975.


About gwpj

Originally from Seattle, I now live in Sapporo, Japan, where I write, explore this city, read widely, and ask questions about things that i see as important. I'm also an author, with three novels published ("The Old Man and The Monkey", "Grandfather and The Raven", and "Bear: a story about a boy and his unusual dog"). For more information about my writing, drop by my website, at
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