Courage, Or One of Gene
By Lisa Coffman
After I write My face burned and I wanted to cry
I watch Catherine Osborn, who was on oxygen all winter,
walk slowly by the canal, with the jerking motions of a small boat
when the people in it move or change places on their knees.
You don’t know nothing. Do you? Gene had said.
I had come to see about buying a fiddle.
Rainy day, the Cumberlands blunting any notion of future.
Well, I said. My face burned and I wanted to cry.
Then he played for me, he would have played for anyone,
a dark maple fiddle he’d made, such a pure sound
it could have belonged to either of us,
it seemed to rise from the frets of my wrists, my curled hands.
We are wrong about courage. It is closer to music.
It rises from us simply as we move in this life, or submit.
From Likely, by Lisa Coffman, Kent State University Press, 1996
Reprinted by permission of the poet