Simon Perchik

Always, between the strings

The Banjo Lesson by Henry Ossawa Tanner

you hear the axes and hammers
breaking loose each word
the way all ballads are sung
to someone you know
who will never return –what you hear
is the leveling that has no secrets
lingers in the hum all night
among the lips that know only loss
and you listen to something
that’s always ending, a song about love
that fits into some banjo held tight
till it’s hurled against the wall
and with both fists the words
no longer go together, begin to fall
from what memory was left
when the radio stopped, said goodbye
without moving or you.


About the writer:
Simon Perchik’s poetry has appeared in Partisan Review, The Nation, The New Yorker and elsewhere.

Image: The Banjo Lesson by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937). Oil on canvas. 49 x 35.5 inches. 1893. Public domain.