“The Accordion” by Tammy Greenwood

Tammy Greenwood


The highlight of every Christmas was you climbing
the attic staircase, like a memory to your childhood,
carrying down the brown leather case that held
the pearl-keyed Titano accordion. Bought by your parents
the year you had rheumatic fever and told you’d never walk
again. We sat at your feet, waiting for the one song you learned
before you proved them wrong, as you squeezed life
into the empty vessel, exhaling “La Vie en rose.”
The year we had to honor your do not resuscitate wish,
there were no rescues, our breath only shallowing
as we tried to follow yours. All of us still as the air left the room.
Now I keep the leather case close, collecting dust beneath
my bed, knowing at any time, my arms wrapped around
leather and linen lungs, the music can be so easily revived.

from Prompt Poem of the Month
October 2023


Prompt: Pick an inanimate object and trace the evolution of your relationship with it throughout your life. Title it with the name of that object.

Note from the series editor, Katie Dozier: “One of the most bittersweet poems I’ve ever read, ‘The Accordion’ reaches a profound depth of longing within the small wishing well of an American sonnet. It has me dreaming of reviving the lives of those we’ve lost and remembering to play every instrument while we still can, and to do it together—especially as we head into the holiday season.”

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