local_library In this photo my father learns to play the oboe

by Carrie Becker

Published in Issue No. 49 ~ June, 2001

Insomnia brings strange dreams. Unwanted

presents consume my days with a tight

ribbon curled question: how to get rid of such

worthless things I’ll never use. Last night

someone gave me a photo of my father learning

to play the oboe. Sitting in a straight back chair,

he practiced Exercise One from his new book

on Parkinson’s disease. I don’t know what this

movement was meant to teach him, maybe it was

a way to fight stillness, to buoy up dying cells,

to teach muscles melody again. Maybe it was

a way to set his jaw against the silent composition

of disease. This is my father rounding his lips

into mourning dove Os, his waist loose as a girl’s,

his chest swelling with cartoon pride. He knows he’s

got it right if his fingers are fluid and never stop, if his

notes meet each other to form a new definition

of harmony, if the song we all imagine never ends.

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Carrie Becker is a poet, essayist, editor, teacher, and student writing workshop advisor. Her work has appeared in several poetry and women's magazines including the 2001 Wisconsin Poets' Calendar, ForPoetry, and Kalliope.