It’s Instrumental

My younger daughter enters middle school next year. She’s a small girl with a big personality. She’s been feeling a little sensitive about her size compared to her classmates’, who are all undergoing major growth spurts – especially the girls. But I feel confident she’ll fit right in. She’s a pistol.

When she went for an orientation at her new school last week, she spent part of the evening choosing an instrument to learn in band class.  Her older sister plays the flute, and there was an assumption that she’d do the same. It was the first instrument the middle school music teacher handed her. She positioned her lips over the mouthpiece and blew a pretty good first note. The teacher looked pleased.

Next came the clarinet. She did okay, but her arms looked awkward grasping the long body. She wasn’t a fan, and neither was I.

The teacher bypassed the trombone (far too big for her to handle) and picked up a trumpet. I’d almost told the teacher not to bother, we’ll go for flute, thanks, see you in the fall.

But when she picked it up and put her lips to the mouthpiece, something remarkable happened. She blew a big, strong, long and brassy note that sounded to the heavens. Her dad, the teacher and I were still for a moment. Then the teacher asked her to try again. She blew another clear note, even longer and stronger.

And so, come fall, my little girl will be making some big noise as she heralds the arrival of the school year with her new instrument.

Heaven help us.


It’s Instrumental

I thought that a flute
With its trills and toots
Might fill her room
With its silvery tunes.

Or a clarinet
Half a jazz duet
With its licorice voice
Might be her choice.

Or she’d try a sax
Mellow to the max
The bend in its bell
Letting sweet notes swell.

Maybe she’d come home
With a xylophone
Sounding soft and clear
And so nice to hear.

But with typical sass
She chose the brass:
A trumpet to blare
bravely through the air.

Now she’s eager to play
Practicing night and day
I give praise and cheers
And then — plug my ears.


©2011 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz


Day 18 of National Poetry Month: Yesterday by C.S. Merwin

During a particularly hectic day last week, I tossed my mail on the table by the front door, thinking of it no more until days later, just this afternoon. For some reason, the pile caught my eye and one piece in particular found its way into my hand – a postcard from the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, announcing an evening with W.S. Merwin, the United States Poet Laureate. He’ll be reading from and signing copies of his 2005 collection, Migration.

It’s one week from today. It’s free. I’m going. And I’m absolutely giddy about it!

Now, I admit to not being well-versed in details about our esteemed Poet Laureate, but I do know that he’s a two-time Pulitzer honoree and that I like his work – particularly his more recent collections. For me, the looser style is more accessible than the more traditional and formal structure of his earlier works. And the fact that I’ll be able to experience this poetry rock star up close and personal in my own city is beyond belief.

Did I mention that I’m giddy?

This video from Poetry Everywhere gives a brief biography before showing the poet himself reading his poem, “Yesterday,” published in 1983:



My friend says I was not a good son
you understand
I say yes I understand

he says I did not go
to see my parents very often you know
and I say yes I know

even when I was living in the same city he says
maybe I would go there once
a month or maybe even less
I say oh yes

he says the last time I went to see my father
I say the last time I saw my father

he says the last time I saw my father
he was asking me about my life
how I was making out and he
went into the next room
to get something to give me

oh I say
feeling again the cold
of my father’s hand the last time

he says and my father turned
in the doorway and saw me
look at my wristwatch and he
said you know I would like you to stay
and talk with me

oh yes I say

but if you are busy he said
I don’t want you to feel that you
have to
just because I’m here

I say nothing

he says my father
said maybe
you have important work you are doing
or maybe you should be seeing
somebody I don’t want to keep you

I look out the window
my friend is older than I am
he says and I told my father it was so
and I got up and left him then
you know

though there was nowhere I had to go
and nothing I had to do

–W.S. Merwin


Full Advantage

Early in my first pregnancy, I had to travel to San Francisco for business, and I hated it.

Having been advised to abstain from eating raw fish, I had to avoid sushi –  while I was in San Francisco on an expense account, no less. Alas!

That first time around, I made a whole-hearted effort to follow expert advice (from doctors, books and experienced mom friends) on healthy maternity eating. But I’ll admit that I didn’t always follow the rules. Though my baby and my health were never in danger, I overindulged in my cravings – sweets and carbs – and paid the price with some stubborn post-partum poundage.

The second time around, I got even more lax with my eating habits. I justified extra helpings with ye olde “eating for two” excuse. I couldn’t resist the creamy concoctions of our favorite local sweet shop. And I remember with a certain fondness an all-you-can-eat Mother’s Day brunch buffet. Pre-pregnancy, I could never seem to make it to a second helping at such places.

This time, suffice it to say I got my money’s worth.


Full Advantage

The best thing for me
about my pregnancy
(aside from the child
that eventually would be)

was the way I could behave
with the food that I would crave:
no more calories would menace,
no more diets would enslave.

Full advantage did I take,
eating “for the baby’s sake,”
though my doctor hadn’t quite
recommended chocolate cake.

Nor was ice cream on her list
and somehow she also missed
plates of pasta, fries and pie
in every flavor that exists.

Anchovies, butter brickle —
no, my tastebuds weren’t too fickle,
though I have to say I never
ever ever craved a pickle.

(Now of course I had my share
of the good and healthy fare,
but rhyming “broccoli” and “orange”
is a challenge I don’t dare.)

Bagels, lox and creamy cheese;
crackers, bread and spreads of brie;
had me munching day and night—
“Pass the queso, could you please?”

Mashed potatoes heaped in mounds,
meatloaf sliced in saucy rounds,
made their way into my tummy
made me gain a few more pounds.

And while the weight I gained so fleetly
didn’t go away completely,
I still hunger for those days
and remember them — quite sweetly.

©2011 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz