“Stray Instrument” by Claire Fields

Claire Fields


The secretary has announced
over the intercom that
there is a stray French horn
in the building
and will you please
keep your eyes open
for it.

As the teacher resumes her
lecture, I wonder if
the instrument has escaped
from its black case, tough
as avocado skin,
and has joined a secret band
of stray instrument outcasts:
the ridiculed tuba,
the skittish viola,
the brooding bassoon.

Perhaps, in the winter months,
when sleepy-eyed heaters clang so
loudly from deep below the school
that the teacher must
perhaps the clanging is really
the forgotten triangle,
calling the stray band
to attention, saying in his thin voice
“Beethoven’s Fifth, everyone,
on three.”

from Rattle #26, Winter 2006


Claire Fields: “Last spring I took a walk and ended up horribly lost. Eventually, after an hour of reading street signs with foreign names, I found my house again and collapsed on the couch, shaken by the experience. Yet, when I think back to that afternoon, what I think of first is how the leaves being swept from the sidewalk by wind looked so much like a flock of sparrows, spinning into the air on brown wings. This is why I write poetry: to be comforted by the beautifully mundane when I find myself lost.”

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