Seeing Regret in a Note
So what is this song playing its notes
on a night with no wind to carry it?
C sharp, B minor, some old refrain
centuries worn, dip here, bow there,
but always keep on turning.
Once upon a time the melody was heard
high and clear, tart and sweet;
it never lost its loft, never fell
into the sour bog of fated endings,
screen credits rolling over fading words.
But ah, children, were we then
who never knew we'd miss it,
the music box sound, tinny and true,
the glass globe turning, the key
unwinding beneath the base.
This then, is how all things pass,
hidden and unknown until
they've gone and all that remains
is a scrap of tune, a harpsichord
note that no one knew but knows is gone.
So there I was sitting on a barstool
and in comes these two fellas
with a tawdry look about them as if
they’d just arrived from the bogland,
the smell of peat still faint about their clothes,
and I could see we were in for a treat
'cause as soon as they smiled
I was standing knee deep in heather,
a lonesome reel carried in on the wind.
It was enough to make a hardass weep.
So I says to the fiddler after they’d done,
"Do you play a woman the way you play your fiddle?"
"I do," he said simply, stamping his foot.
My heart began to stir, as all around the Bodhran beat,
the dancers whirled, the fiddler and his pal singing,
Johnny Jump Up, Johnny Jump Up.
So sure I waited for the set to end;
"Time to move on," he says, "time to move on."
And out he went, into the Guinness night,
while I started after, then stopped cold; "Ach," says I
"what’s the point?" But then, there he stood, his hand raised
beckoning me along. This big, wonderful sigh,
heaved right out of me, loud as a milk truck,
and I turned ‘round and trudged off.
But at least he asked.
A whiskey moon on a July night.
A girl, a fiddle, a man with a pipe.
The heather is blooming and lilacs too;
A lonesome woman in the warm summer rain.
She sings a song so simply true
it makes a rock begin to weep.
The gulls circle round, their cry so sharp,
you’d think they’d lost their way to the sea.
The land was once all green and soft,
a woman’s dreams could do no harm.
The heather and foxglove purple in bloom,
the rose thorns deep inside her heart.
The seabird knows what it means to cry
perched upon a blue-green hill;
the grass rolls in like emerald waves
breaking on the valley shore.
The night is long in bringing the dark,
the stars for company.
Sheep are clouds upon the turf;
do you see them full of rain?
A woman can dream and do no harm
to a whiskey moon on a summer’s night.
A woman can fiddle a man and a pipe
and do no harm on a summer’s night.
Barbra teaches at Broward Community College, and has been
published in Calyx, Kalliope, Birmingham Review, Chatahoochee Review,
Kansas Quarterly, and Florida Review. She won the 1999 NFSPS
Stevens Poetry Manuscript Award for her book, Singing in the Key of L.