Poetry Archive: Old Horn

Old Horn

Opening up the grooved, black case
Yellow thread unstitched from leather trim
I reveal
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


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