Piedmont by Matt Dennison

On Sundays I take my fiddle and dreams
onto the front porch after church, have a frolic.
Reminds me of the grace of a jigsaw puzzle
being solved as all the pieces fit themselves
together without my even thinking. ‘Cause
I step aside. Allow. Figure the puzzle knows
best about what it needs. The family names
my solutions for me later, as I never have
names for my dreams, just as you never
have names for the people in your dreams.
Checked out Daddy’s fiddle the other day.
All the strings gone loose, hairs on the bow
eaten to dust. Remembered how Daddy,
whiskey-sick and trundled off to bed
every night before, would always wake us
with banjo, fiddle or hoot-bottle, however
his mood struck. Send us out to the apple tree.
We would meet the chickens out there while
Mother was cooking breakfast. Had that ham
smelling all over our little valley, this donkey’s
life ago. And coffee making, apples frying,
Mother making biscuits. Daddy played it what
was called folk music and Daddy played it best.
Always kept music in the home. And then, for
through the week we’d work the fields, from
can to can’t till Friday nights when we’d visit.
The only way people had of traveling was to get in
these little paths, mountain roads, and walk from
one valley to another and so we’d do that,
and they would play their music, a real soft
clear sound that sounded better outside than
it would the house. The music the others
made I never played it that way. Played it
the way that Daddy played, knowing
they’re thinking What’s sitting up there
making that sound?
Music also slowed it
through the work-a-day world’s farm and
factory. Now, tobacco’s a finicky crop,
each leaf hand-pulled from the bottom,
every step of the process accompanied
by song, and it was fun, so I thought
I’d pick up music too. Couldn’t throw
my voice in like I wanted, so I played
with my fingers. Now I lay bricks just
as good as I can, and no one learnt me,
I just watched what the other mans do.
And one said Keep on playing. These bricks
ain’t no business of yours, ‘cause one day
the Lord’ll come down and get your whole
frozen body and your fingers’ll be too rough
for heaven’s little angels.
Scared me for a bit
and I quit for a long time, brickin’ and playin’.
But the Lord ain’t coming down to get nobody.
You gots to be dead before the Lord gets you
and you ain’t dead and I ain’t dead—hopefully
still on the front porch, working the puzzle,
sometimes right, sometimes wrong. Just
remember the puzzle wants to solve itself.
So pick up your fiddle and let it.

# # #

After a rather extended and varied second childhood in New Orleans, Matt Dennison’s
work has appeared in Rattle, Bayou Magazine, Redivider, Natural Bridge, The Spoon
River Poetry Review and Cider Press Review, among others. He has also made videos
with poetry videographers Michael Dickes, Swoon, and Marie Craven.

Photo credit: Dirk Dreyer www.dreyerpictures.com


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