Today's poem is by Natalie Giarratano

Self-Portrait as a Boy in A Musician Family
        (ca. 1828, Francois-Joseph Navez)

My papa told me to keep a sparrow
in my shirt pocket all day as we travel
to the next town plaza to perform, and
when the moon stares me down, to listen
to the songs she writes while others sleep.

He says this will make me a musician,
that birdsong is key to understanding
where the chords come from.
So far, I am still cursed with clumsy fingers,
and No ear, papa says, but as I listen, I forget

I can hate myself when mama makes
the mandolin slur, as papa hammers on
the violin for the crowd's favorite tarantella,
when sister twirls—a spider on its safety rope.
I'm full of everything and nothing

like my suitcase, like the hoop my dog jumps
through and through, and this sparrow
worries me: what if her voice fails, what if
she falls, what ifl can't let her go? Is there
language to find in the folds of shadow

with which to eulogize? When I sleep,
I dream that she suffocates. I feed her
to my dog who's had nothing to eat;
papa stares at me with distant eyes,
as though he is just sleepwalking, but says

nothing. Awake again, I'm just trying to hear
my way out of moments. I call out for
Apollo, who, even if he does not make out
my words, might sense that I'm afraid
that the sky cannot always contain the music.

Copyright © 2018 Natalie Giarratano All rights reserved
from Big Thicket Blues
Sundress Publications
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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