Cello

When I was in grad school, I was honored to study poetry for three years with five other students who continually amazed me. They taught me and challenged me, leaving me mesmerized that such beautiful things could come out of their brains.

One of those poets was Courtney Queeney, whom I’m so happy to have as a reader (and commenter!) at Mama:Monk.  Thankfully, her talent was appreciated quickly and she was given a book deal in 2007. If you’re looking for a recommendation for your poetry experience, read Filibuster to Delay a Kiss. Do it.

Yesterday, as I sat through a wonderful service at my church, I was giddy to see a woman with a cello taking the stage just in time for communion. I love the cello. My dad and his two sisters were all forced to learn an instrument (my Memaw prides herself on her ruthless after-school family rehearsals throughout their childhood). My dad is the only of the three who didn’t pursue his instrument professionally. He still plays violin beautifully and one of my favorite sights is the way he moves with his bow.

My aunt plays the cello. And though I never played it myself, I’ve always loved the size of the cello. I love the unladylike posture of it. And mostly, I love the depth of its sound. Its voice is so much wiser than any of the other strings, like it’s been through more, knows more. Like its depth has also made it a little sad.

One of my favorite lines from Courtney’s poems comes from “Notes for My Future Biographer.” When yesterday’s cellist sat down to play, my mind whispered, “Then I heard a cello and thought, / Oh. That’s how you say it.”

So, because it’s Labor Day and we need a poem, and because you all need to know what a lovely poet my friend is, I’m going to share the whole poem with you.

Notes for My Future Biographer

The dark things I did started young, stayed.

Then I heard a cello and thought,
Oh. That’s how you say it.

I could spell and count to a hundred
in several languages, but never learned the words
to help anyone to a church.

There were X number of men;
I couldn’t solve for X.

With the chameleon as my model
I greened and glowed outside,
or rippled underwater.
Alone, I was translucent, I was

*     *     *

barely, but survived myself
those early years,

which prepared me
for the later ones,
when I felt like furniture

and never told the truth.

  • http://www.farrahknits.com Farrah

    LOVE the poem! I have also daydreamed about learning the cello one day, for now, I just listen to a lot of Yo-Yo Ma.

  • Lex

    Wishlisted.

  • CAQ

    Micha, are you trying to make me cry? I just returned from the first weekend since Poetry Camp, aka grad school, where I felt like a writer–I was climbing all over rusty oil cans and in abandoned warehouses in Green Bay, WI, with my photographer friend with whom I am working on a project with a third, who could not be there. He asked me to describe Broadway in three words: I said, hardscrabble, decaying, ignored. It was the opposite of a cello.
    But it was also so gorgeous, when we stopped and looked at the details; the way the coal piles glinted in the late afternoon sun with silver in them. Or the sunflowers pushing up through (what seemed like) randomly lopped-off pipes sticking up from the ground. Who stops and looks, in such a deserted place? We did this weekend, and though I came home with coal or oil or maybe just dirt smeared across my face (I still don’t know, but I looked fairly vagrant at about 11 pm last night) it was amazing. Your post was a great homecoming gift. They always are. xoxocaq

  • Haley

    Mmmmm… I am drinking this up. Love the cello and this poem in equal parts.


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