Stringed Instrument Collection
You began it the third fall you were alone,
and soon they surrounded you: mandolins,
mandolas, guitars—cutaways, dreadnoughts—
the upright bass. You spent most of those nights
with the jazz guitar, learning Birdland and Twilight Time.
The others hung from inlaid necks, scrolled heads,
patient, mute, the way they hang now from
these walls. You claim no wood is ever dead,
even if it’s gone to fire and risen as heat,
and think of them not as possessions but as guests
who will survive you, pass to other hands
the way they passed to yours. Sometimes a name
called out, a cough, a laugh will echo here—our voices
in the hollows of their bodies, for now, sustained.
By Claudia Emerson
Recipient of the 2007 Carole Weinstein Poetry Prize
Reprinted by permission of Louisiana State University Press
from Late Wife: Poems by Claudia Emerson.
Copyright © 2005 by Claudia Emerson.