Puccini, in Those Days

One of my poems recently appeared in an anthology of work inspired by music, 
published by The Poetry Box. This is a literary journal based in Portland,
Oregon.They held a launch on November 13, 2016. 

I wish my grandfather could have been there! 

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                                                                 Puccini, in those days.

Even when I was a toddler, I loved my Puccini.

Pooo chee nee. Pooo chee nee.

“She wants to come for a listen” Grandfather would say, yielding to my

outstretched hands.

While the rest of the family sat around the dinner table, everyone nursing the strong LaVazza, the women (in those days) refilling the cups,

I’d be carried out to the living room, to the velvet sofa, to the rows of records lining the walls.

“What’s that? “Grandpa would ask, pointing to his ancient Victrola,its bulbous cornucopia, the little dog logo.

Pooo chee nee. Pooo chee nee,

Grandpa would put a record on, newly vinyl (in those days) and we’d settle in. He’d put one arm around me like a shawl, the thin smoke of his Camel cigarette curling through my hair, the smell of tobacco mingling with baby powder. I’d stick my thumb in my mouth and fall asleep.

Later, at eight or nine, I looked forward to the same ritual, Grandpa and I on the sofa, Puccini between us like an old friend.

By then, I knew every scratch, every hesitation,

the crescendo of poor Butterfly left waiting,

the minor key of Mimi coughing in the night,

the arpeggios of longing and loss.

Sometimes the old man would close his eyes and doze,

not even awakening when the record needle began to wander towards the paper label.

Tosca’s last leaping cry just a whisper in his mind.

By then, I’d learned to gingerly take Puccini off the spindle by myself, and place him back in his cardboard sleeve, like tucking in a child for the night.
I’d tiptoe out of the room, my heart a little wider, the world a little softer. (In those days).