Song Called Heavy

by Alison Pelegrin

(musician Bois Sec retired his accordion after
losing a child)

I remember when the baby came
we smiled so much our faces hurt.
Marceline would bounce him on a hip,
clap her hands to the sounds I made.

But our one son’s life was a waltz.
He opened and closed it with moans.
Then my wife joined in. Then me.
We were a brief trio.

Now, disrepair’s our only music.
My accordion’s pleats stiffen
under dust in the garage,
and home is silent as lonesome.

Routine and distance have rusted
between my body and my wife’s.
Her polishing locked shine in the kitchen,
but even so our house is gray.

For weeks I stooped in the haze
of God, praying for some life to give.
The priest laid hands, but the tempo
of his beads is just a thud.

Before, the music came to me
in footsteps or in falling rain—
it was the accordion that taught me
to breathe, to tap my foot, to dance.

I want to pry the creases loose,
but when I hold that music box
I only see my son straining
to stretch the skin over his ribs.

How can I sink into the duty of music
without someone to tell me
the name of the song that I sing?

Alison Pelegrin‘s chapbook Voodoo Lips was winner of the 2002 Tennessee Chapbook Prize, and her collection The Zydeco Tablets is forthcoming this fall. She is the author of another chapbook, Dancing with the One-Armed Man (Slipstream Press 1999), and she has published poems in DoubleTake, Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner and New Letters. She lives in Mandeville, Louisiana, with her baby boy, Benjamin.