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An Anthology of Poetry about Being Young and Growing Up
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Peter Everwine

In our little town of soot and sulfur the Maestro was known as a gentleman of the old school, soft-spoken, refined. Even my mother approved, handing him on Saturday afternoons, the money she scrimped, that I might profit as much in manners as in music, blatting my horrible cornet cadenzas into the parlor’s fractured air. How patiently he listened, what pains he took, urging my labors toward song! What he loved, above all, was Mozart and the soaring voices of bel canto. I wanted only to be Harry James, my famous embouchure lifting the first fat notes of “Sleepy Lagoon into the ballrooms ad balconies of heaven. It all came tumbling down the night the sheriff’s spotlight found the Maestro lurking in bushes by a bedroom window— thus ending, so it seemed, a rash of unsolved neighborhood complaints. Little survived his shame: lessons, his standing in the town, the strains of Mozart drifting from his house— gone, and then he was gone. It would be years before I, too, could leave that dying town to find my way in the world. Yet even now I think of him and recall those hours on Saturday afternoons when he sat beside me and sang into my ear measures I could not hear for myself, and from this distance now, in praise, I purse my lips, as he taught me, and blow a silent triple-tongue staccato, into an imaginary silver mouthpiece of a horn once held by Harry James, filling the sunlit rooms of Memory with the pure, incorruptible dream of music.

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