by Donald Levering
Kansas City, March 22, 1928
Half a year before the crash
that scattered armies of the dispossessed,
my dad’s father sits with bow in hand
among his kindred with their fiddles,
mandolins, guitars, and single balalaika,
ready to be plucked from their era
to rest within a frame on my mantel.
A hooded box’s panoramic lens
had curved the view to take in
the ballroom’s width, so the long rows
of music makers, armed with instruments,
bulge to form a phalanx against
the tedium of farm and factory.
With worsted suits, white shirts, and bow ties,
the players seem less like rowdy rounders,
though the front row gal in flapper’s garb,
hand around her banjo’s frets,
invites me to guess
it was as much a party as a contest.
Grandfather poses with his fiddle in his lap
and winner’s ribbon on his vest,
this man I never knew
but heard had roamed around the West.
Now hear their mingled repertoire
of reels, jigs, and breakdowns,
polkas, rags, and waltzes
merge into a frieze of sound,
as time is circular
and music goes in rounds,
and songs are handed down.