by Jeff Burt

Man playing harmonica, photo by Matt Seymour
Photo by Matt Seymour@Unsplash

I lacked an exhaling force, lungs encouraged to close by a constant infection. Lungs starved for oxygen, a harmonica suggested by my uncle, became my companion. I lay in my bed, I lay on the couch, I lay on the floor, I lay dying on the dying grass, playing my new harmonica, driving my parents mad. I played a single tune, a wavering long sound like a train approaching, approached, and then whistling away, or maybe it wasn’t a tune, or a train, maybe it was a noisy wind caught in the aluminum roof of the shed, or the way a wind came to a roar and then diminished as it flapped the unlocked door to the rusted garage door across the street where teenagers smoked weed on the weekend, or maybe it was like the sound of hundreds of starlings that start overhead and then swoop down towards your head and all you can think about is that death sounds like that, a faint whirr and then a rush so loud you can’t see anything but darkness and ferocity and then it’s over in a flash. Perhaps I played the harmonica because I was waiting for the flash.

Jeff Burt

Jeff Burt has contributed to Williwaw Journal, Willows Wept Review, and Heartwood. He has two chapbooks available, A Filament Drawn so Thin from Red Bird Chapbooks, and Little Popple River and Other Poems, from Red Wolf Editions.

More: https://www.jeff-burt.com


2024-Jun-01 14:43

I find a dark reminiscence from a place of illness made darker because the speaker is a child who knows, or suspects at least, that death is in the wind. Thank you, Jeff.

2024-Jun-04 17:05

This really presents the sound of breath in a harmonica, and each line sustains it, the way the harmonica sounds to both exhaled and inhaled breath.