A Hundred Gourds 3:1 December 2013
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Margaret Dornaus - USA

Three-quarter Time

Orphaned at an early age, my father spent part of his childhood in his grandparents’ house on Koch Street in an immigrant neighborhood not far from the town bandstand where my great-grandfather the musician hiked, bass viol in tow, to perform on summer evenings. Today the house is a rambling, dingy-white clapboard that sits on a barren corner lot once planted with the kind of fragrant perennials associated with our grandmothers’ gardens.

Camera-in-hand, I stand, watching, waiting, thinking I might capture some long-lost image; that through some magic transformation of the eye, my lens might transpose the house I see before me for the house my father, his father, his father’s father and mother once filled with sound and life. I close my eyes and try to imagine the swell of stringed instruments rising and falling under rosined bows that covered the parlor’s chairs with the fine, soft dust of music.

Then I look up at the house’s second story—where my great-grandfather’s workroom was lined with tables for rolling handmade cigars from sweet, golden flakes of cured tobacco. The second floor is bordered by a railed catwalk, and I find myself wondering how many times my great-grandfather must have taken a turn outside the confined rooms of a cigar-maker to see the tops of linden trees blooming, to smell air untouched by tobacco, to hear, perhaps, the strains of a Viennese waltz drifting from some far-off place in his imagination.

ghost moon . . .
the three-quarter time
of a lost generation

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