Squeezebox

By James Reiss

Hear the author read this poem

You stretched its bellows to the limit without ripping
the fabric. So what if you weren’t the guy on TV
who touched off tremolos by twitching his instrument
in time with Ed Sullivan’s handclaps.
You pumped yours like a concertina, tight
in your shoulder straps, pounding the keyboard.

You took lessons from Mr. Merino, who called
your accordion an “ax.” He taught you jazz
syncopations, scales you muffed, & once,
while he stood behind you fingering your ribs,
the rhythm of a man in love with boys.

So what if you weren’t the crush he imagined,
performing in pigeon piazzas
where tourists noshed on prosciutto.
Flawless from his tap shoes to his toupee,
as he played “Sorrento” & “Lady of Spain,”
he pressed black buttons, forming long-lost chords.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2006/08/squeezebox/305032/