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The Lady Cellist

By Elizabeth Cox
Green River Review, Anthology of North Carolina Poets, 1983

Your hair as long as the cello,
your legs propped open, your neck
beside its neck, holding like a lover.
A history imagined, but dim.
One wrist breaks the air, elbows out,
your whole head bowed.
A washerwoman, bending over her tub.
She scrubs her children's clothes.

Beside her, a willow spreads
like a small bush. A boy learns
to ride his bike on the road. He wobbles
toward the stand of pine without falling.
Your hands he knows from birth, from
his hill of womb the traces of song.
This child of your heart
breaking into man before your eyes.

That night, at the concert hall,
you knew what you were doing- each
round borne deep inside those strings.
Your fingers must have burned
the chords that rose inside the board
you scrubbed. Fat ridges rubbed
the collar clean. Your dress falling
between your knees like a sail,

loose in wind, light and shade shifting
like wrens. Your fingers seek one road.
Bend over your tub of clothes. Fall hard
into that dark jar you love: music and boy,
a kinship shuddering in the dark wood,
in strings, a kyrie eleison glistening
beneath the light strands of his hair.