A Good Violin by William Doreski

Finding a good violin
at a local yard sale inflames
me with visions of Paganini
torturing his instrument
with a grace material objects
shouldn’t express. The patina’s

so ripe I want to stroke it
on my deathbed. A cardboard box
to deposit the five-dollar price.
I leave four ones and four quarters
and clutch the violin the way
a refugee clutches her infant.

Of course I’m too old to learn
to play the thing. I’ll place it
on the mantle beneath a painting
of me with my favorite cat—
another example of culture
in the raw. I’ve never touched

anything smoother than this wood,
never experienced an object
so delicately balanced, so sure
of itself. A label inside
reads “G. Intifera, Cremona,
1809.” Napoleonic,

then, a witness to history.
I’m sort of a refugee myself,
fleeing the noise in my head
and therefore drawn to an instrument
impossible for me to play.
But that hypothetical woman

with her soggy infant suffers
a hurt I hardly understand—
so if I could play the violin
I’d apologize and dedicate
a sonata to the misery
of the arid land she escaped.

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