He put the string bow down in nineteen forty-one
A world at war needs song but there was nothing to be done
They said it might be cancerous, a growth upon his chin
And so it was I never heard him play the violin.
He bid the band goodbye and left the only work he knew
Got a job in a shoe store down on the avenue
And everybody liked him with his laughing, moustached grin
And though they bought his shoes, they didn’t know he played the violin.
From the storeroom you could hear a sweet refrain
Forty years of shoes and those noisy Brooklyn trains
He played the ukelele, Porter and Berlin
And sang us all those songs he had once played on the violin.
In the back room with his records and his books
Beneath a pile of things where no one ever looked
My father’s father kept a case, now worn and thin
Four hairless string bows and a pair of sister violins.
In my closet now, the fiddles and the uke
I play the ukelele when I get the blues
And if I have two children with fingers long and thin
I just might let them learn to play the violin.
© 1993 Pamela Cardullo Ortiz