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Memorial Day, 1943 At 17 my father had a silver cornet & blue light stirred behind his eyes. He stepped out behind the slide trombones, march tempo, six abreast, six pair of spats sparkling white on spit-shine Sunday shoes — row on row of legs draped in royal blue striped with gold, 120 steps a minute to the rattle of the snare down Main Street. The music is proud Sousa & my father swells with breath beneath brass buttons, mouthpiece pressed to lips, triple-tonguing, double forte, bright notes bursting in the air of crystalline afternoon, lilac-scented spring. In from the fields on holiday, a corridor of eyes & smiles, scrubbed faces framed in white collars, calloused hands clapping as the band steps by — These kids sound good, don’t they? His silver horn sings out legato over Penn’s Creek where it curves under the wobbly footbridge by the firehall. Stars & stripes ripple from the pole. An old willow leans over the water, strand after strand of green tears. A red-winged blackbird screeches, lifts into the breeze, epaulets flashing scarlet as it flaps across the creek to the ballfield like a young man crossing the sea to war.
First published in Poet Lore (2003) and republished in Mike Schneider’s chapbook Rooster (2004).
Mike Schneider’s chapbook Elvis Night at Johnny’s came out in March, 2022. He lives in Pittsburgh.
Copyright 2003 Mike Schneider