Opening up the grooved, black case
Yellow thread unstitched from leather trim
The dented metal
–scratched and dull.
The kerosene smell of valve oil.
The smooth of thinning black velvet.
An old, dirty blue washcloth
To catch spit.
I pull the cold metal to my lips
And inhale whispery memories of
Marching band days
Of half-forgotten names
Of furry white, Q-tip hats
And half-time formations
Fight songs and flying toilet paper rolls
Flung from the stands
Gleaming electric lights
Reflected in golden, glowing brass
The BOOM rata-tata BOOM
Of the Osbourn Park Rock-n-Roll Drum Corps
The shake of pom-poms and sweatered chests
And playing ‘Taps’ for the Rockbridge Raiders
As the Yellow Jackets
Sit on the ball
To the cloudy-breath cheers
Of the Homecoming crowd
As the scoreboard clock gently ticks to zero…
I look over the old fight song
Fumble valves with uncertain fingers (A, D#, G?)
Stuff the mute into
The unpolished brass bell
And with a heavy sigh from aged lips
I blow the sound
Of crazed tin elephants.
Winner of the 1991 Margaret Haley Carpenter Prize for Poetry at the University of Richmond