Trombone

                                 At the Flamingo Road Publix,
                                                                                I bump
into my grandfather
               whom I haven’t talked to in years
                                           rolling his cart down
                the frozen food aisle.

I watch
                             as he wriggles his small hand
                                           in his pocket,

               and I’m overwhelmed
                             by the baton of memory:

                             those gristle-gray afternoons
in the room on the side of his house
                                          decorated with egg cartons,

me with my trombone slide
              scything through the air.
                                         How he wouldn’t talk

for hours as he hummed the melody
                           I missed. His arms sexless and bent
               like parentheses;

                             my legs stinging
from red smacks of baton for each note
                                        fumbled.

               But now, he looks so frail as he puts a bag
of frozen peas into his cart,
                                        then struggles
to remember my name:
                            Is it Charlie?
                                                   Maybe Jonathan?
                No, not Charlie, not Jonathan,
I reply.
                              The names
heavy and slippery in his mouth like river stones.

                           Not that. Not that.
When I return home, I tell my wife
            I saw my grandfather at the store.
           
           How is he?,
she asks.

I tell her he seemed happy,
                          that he looked good for his age.

That night, I rummage
                                         through my closet,
              find my fusty-smelling trombone,
                            then throw it out
one part at a time.

 
 

Jean-Luc Fontaine’s poetry has appeared in Naugatuck River Review, Apalachee Review, and elsewhere. He currently attends the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence College, and lives in New York with the aid of instant coffee.