The Fiddler’s Reply

t’s a question that I’ve heard before
And all that I can say to that is – no sir!

No sir!

I have played a tune in the dark on the porch
Of a prairie farm – summer rain coming
Down so straight you could set your chair right there
On the edge of the porch and keep bone dry.
Such straight regular rain, they say, is good
For the crop. Good for tunes too, I say,
Deep in the night, listening to the corn.

And I remember a tune one winter
Afternoon up north, fiddling after chores.
The sun staring in through a wet kitchen
Window – all ice outside, all steam inside.
My chair tips back; the woodstove snaps loudly,
Popping irregular time to the steppy
Tunes, flannel and coffee, bisquits and boots.

I’ve played tunes on a fine spring evening
At the town hall dance where everybody shows,
Joking with the caller, shaking off winter,
Stretching limbs, swapping partners for neighbors.
Good healthy tempos break the first real sweat.
Long lines forward and back and – Look! Outside!
The sun’s still up on a fine green evening!

And then there is a tune I know that plays just
Like a cold November morning. Sober.
Inside, looking out. A gray air that wants
Chords unresolved – turning into the mist
Like so many leaves, riven and broken,
Returning from sky to earth after fall –
The undeniable fall – calls them home.

I have played tunes – not songs. Not voiceable,
Obvious word-infested songs – but tunes,
Each tune a puzzle, each one a box
With its own proud secret. Each its own smile
Sweetly shown – each tune is a lesson pondered.
Pattern – at once familiar yet unique –
Like snow crystals – like footprints – like the way
The world is right now – that’s what a tune is.

No sir.

No sir. They don’t all sound the same to me.

Joel Mabus