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Callaloo 25.3 (2002) 719-724

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Richard Brought His Flute

Nancy Morejón


without the slightest sound
with veins of cognac and a dance step by Romeu
grandpa Egües took over a bowlegged stiff chair
      "aren't any musicians of my generation left
      in Placetas
      specially the band
      this concert's el carajo"
we're all here but the expected guest has not arrived
and it's raining hard outside
they reappear every night
tales of Juan Gualberto in the old country
like the breath of trees
while we turn the records over

"the drums are what keep the swing"

thunder and rain
      enough rain to drown us all each of us
      fourteen or fifteen years old
so that's death and then where will we all be?
we look out the window onto the narrow street
of the church of San Nicolás
(we never did like priests)
it's time for dinner and we split the bread
and drink the beer [End Page 719]


the piano is in the living room
the opportunity of the piano in the living room
was enough for us to distinguish
      everything else
the whole living room isn't big just the piano's place
"what do you think about hearing some music?"
we all gather round, no exceptions
good afternoons or good evenings
consume thought
we're all here, what else?
      just here together
as much as grandpa Egües's inflamed body
      his glasses
might want to cushion us and teach us
all the fingerings on the flute
      and the scales besides
and of course you need good blood
to remember the notes of the music
and not knowing why
the distance and attention of one or more of us
becomes obvious at this time
at this moment of age-old sound and discipline

the piano is in the living room
(it's Monday and one of us has lit our candle
      great weekly candle for eleggua
      nothing you can say
just drink a bottle of rum beside the door)
all of us virtuous and well-mannered
girls with hands clasped
boys practicing scales
grumbling on the sticky alcoholic violin
the pettiness of all our actions came down
to knowing if we could easily recognize a Picasso
if the Latinos if the Blacks lived better in New York [End Page 720]
we had bought for our older cousin
Count Basie, Duke Ellington, the Nat Cole trio
and by December we might get
the Mozart concerto for flute
in the whole wondrous living room rests the piano
a serpent arises now with the fall of night
it's time
for the tales to appear


the day the two old women stuffed two birds
      somewhere in the museum
we returned empty hoping to hear the music of the century
happiness was that whole pleasure of listening
giving in to the hegemony of its magic
for me it was the first time
first time
first that I had heard a clarinet so fierce
      so smoking
thanks to grandpa Egües that's when a new age began
for us childhood all over again
      just beginning
just that clarinet like a bridge
(and Gladys's coppery gaze with a few pounds extra)
we had to listen to every note
the needle groove coated with old dust
Mozart and Europe were laughing far away
but we were also dancing furiously
listening to a drum a bass a trumpet a guiro a flute
joined in battle
or listening to the drumbeats born in the selfsame fire [End Page 721]
it was the first time the first great time
and all our silence came down to listening
      to listening


we're all together

the music plays

congratulations, Gladys


but Gladys won't dance


no way, never


soon we were all talking in unison
"— the prettiest shoes are mine, my dear"
eyes working over the table and the painting of a white swan
we felt the evening wear on
sometimes you felt like spending it all
      possible or impossible
after all papá would know...


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pp. 725-730
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