“THE CHEATING HARP”
She lived beneath me in Dekalb.
The girl who grew long yellow hair—
like corn silk down to her waist;
And sometimes I would see her
while I reached my hand inside
the mailbox, feeling around
for something that never arrived, there.
She played harp in apartment A3—
in addition to the university orchestra—
I heard her magic, skipping stones,
up from beneath my underground.
she would hear me above her,
tiny nails into wooden canvas frames.
She would almost always pound back—
harder and more aggressive than I—
at which point, I would finish; She, satisfied.
One day, I heard a loud commotion.
There was this continual knocking
on the door beneath mine.
And there was a bearded man in his late fifties—
hollering obscenities. I opened up
and stepped out onto the catwalk,
looking down over black railing.
He was a distinguished fellow.
Black horn-rim glasses in a brown corduroy jacket;
The sort that had elbow patches.
I decided that she’d been involved in an affair
with the man. He had left his wife. And now—
she was leaving him for someone her own age.
She refused to open her door to him.
And after a while, he twirled in circles—
searching for a purpose— arms flapping
in the air and down to his sides.
It was as though he were trying to take flight.
Then, he walked off down the blacktop driveway—
into the bustling sidewalks of college kids
as they headed off to take another final exam.
I went back inside B3, estimating
it was probably a good time
to finish constructing that canvas.
And as I pounded away—
each tiny nail into quarter-round,
I heard her strum that harp.
I don’t know if she ever knew
what all my pounding was about—
but for the first time,
she joined me in duet,
plucking at her cheating harp.