Bio Note: I am a longtime editor, slowly publishing poet, and author of six picture books, including From Apple Trees to Cider, Please! and The Boy Who Said Nonsense (Albert Whitman & Company). In 2018 I moved away from the masthead of an academic quarterly to work with people who want to share their stories, ideas, and poems in print. It’s been a joy—and quite an adventure. My short fiction has been nominated for a 2021 Pushcart Prize and Best MicroFiction Award.
The Clarinet Lesson
I stepped outside to make a call. Inside, a woodwind played arpeggios. Crisp russet leaves trilled Autumn’s serenade and ceased. No wind. The woods stood still. No chill proscribed the joy in every rising timbered note scaled by the practiced boy within that house. I felt each pulse— struck suddenly aware— Sound pierced a veil, my heart rang out, love tore the living air— And then wild geese droned overhead, a squadron in its prime. Around the turn Thanksgiving sings sweet hymns in common time.
Their appearance signals prohibition: Nearness Not Allowed. And yet we gather them to fashion festive autumn wreaths, fill baskets for our harvest hearth, complete a mantle dressed with votive, velvet ribbon, and fragrant yards of evergreen that drop their needles far before the advent of the Christ child. It’s a way of bringing outside in—to celebrate—to mark each Yule and keep the warmth and spirit of the growing season going. As it strangely happens, fallen pinecones fit within the palm, resembling, of all things, tossed hand grenades, their armored task of keeping safe the tiny baby teeth-like seeds they bear and hide and guard fulfilled. Harvested still green, Pinyon pinecones shield and yield the finest tasting pine nuts. Shelled—laborious work— they’re tender, nutty, and divine when toasted. To think that such a fierce façade protects this warm, concealed goodwill! As a Brownie I learned in childhood to share bright summer’s store by spreading pinecones with Skippy peanut butter we rolled in birdseed and tied with a loop of twine, for dangling from a tree branch with window view. It always brought the cardinal’s crimson visit, so never judge a pinecone by its shell. He was winter thankful, I could tell.
Grace: almost always undeserved yet miraculous gift Ratifying belief in hope And sometimes justice. Prodigy That evolves back Into childhood—brave blue crayon house, red flowers, yellow sun; Teachers who strike Promethean fires; Understanding, which inevitably follows heartbreak’s inaugural tear; and Daydreams—in other words Everything you meet, dreamer, that leads your letters here.
©2020 Felicia Sanzari Chernesky
Editor's Note: If this poem(s) moves you please consider writing to the author (email address above) to tell him or her. You might say what it is about the poem that moves you. Writing to the author is the beginning of community at Verse Virtual. It is very important. -JL