The Failing Musician

Chin long as a saxophone with acne,

a gawky awkward walk to match

and pink freckles blossoming on the colonial blouses

her grandmother bought in the nightie aisle at the pharmacy. No one knows why she still

comes to class. Everyone knows she won’t make it.

Though her skin is always hidden, the powerful smell of nakedness flashes upon you

like heat when she passes while making her way to the back of the band room where

her papers squeak off the metal stand like pigeons with letters and no one to fly them to.

You know her name, but no one can pronounce it.

Every time an elephantine B♭ fart explodes from the brass section murdering Sousa,

or when Mr. Ferlan crumples his face like he’s tasted cottage cheese

anytime eyes dart and fingers whisper (a light minute before turning

to more consequential things), you know it’s the orchestra dork who set it off.

You wonder if she – you wonder if

your crush will notice your Cleopatra eyeliner. You almost ask her – you take out

your tetracolor pen. It’s a sleek instrument, one with which one must not make mistakes.

Repeat ad nauseum

until one day the dork doesn’t show up to orchestra.

A month seems too long for an orthodontist appointment.

You find out the funeral was up north where a few people who cared

about the parents shiver and live and went to the wake or whatever it’s called

to say nice things and place the unspeakable name in the ground

and now an empty space like a missing tonsil or tooth waits to be filled

at the back of the band room, cold air spinning webs on your goosebumped

back from the black hole

any and every empty space needs to be filled or the music is dead.

It’s not until the replacement gets


that you realize how wonderful blissful and splendid it was

when the dork still lived, wanting to die perhaps but hanging on.

The last single bead on the chain unlocks all the rest, an irretrievable rain

onto the floor and into the corners

only the dust-eater dares explore.



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