“Mandolin” by Robert Morgan

Robert Morgan


When Grandma Cecil tickled her
bright mandolin below her chin
it seemed she scratched an itch
and shivered something near her heart.
With instrument in arms she was
oblivious to all of us
unsympathetic in-law kin.
Her playing was her best defense
in that awkward second marriage.
The mandolin was strange to us,
too short for an adult we thought,
its belly bulging like a goiter,
exotic with its teasing trills,
the pick a special fingernail
for etching deeper in the tune
a figure of excited loss,
her plucking an odd intimacy
with corridors and hidden rooms
that only she could see and would
conceal from her new family
with needling sting of melody.

from Rattle #72, Summer 2021
Tribute to Appalachian Poets


Robert Morgan: “A special reward for writing poetry for me has been remembering people, places, and events from my childhood in the mountains of North Carolina and recreating them in poems. I was inspired to write ‘Mandolin’ in part by watching the PBS series Country Music and recalling all these years later our step-grandma who we called ‘Grandma Cecil.’ Through writing the poem I discovered an affection for her and a guilt about our attitude to her I had not recognized before. We write poems because they help us uncover forgotten truths.”

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