Gris-Gris, an online journal of literature, culture & the arts

Fiddle Fest Contestants

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.