Sixteen I was. Hitching a ride.
This man come by, a tuning fork
in his pocket: tapped it, held it
to my ear. I’d know
it anywhere — middle C it was.
Right then I knew
I wanted to do what he did:
tune pianos. I’d never touched one.
Laugh if you want to, Sonny, but
we were dirt poor. In the morning,
five below, no frigging thing
in the house to eat, I’d go out,
dig frozen apples under the snow
with my bare hands. That
was breakfast — and maybe why
I never grew beyond five foot three.
I went into the C.C.C.
up in Bridgeton. That sort of thing
might be good for you, Sonny.
We got overalls, long johns,
shirts, shoes, three meals a day
and all the work we could eat.
God bless Mr. Roosevelt is what I say —
and they had an old piano.
An upright, veneer all peeling off.
One fellow could play some.
I watched inside to see
hammers working, levers, strings.
I knew, damned if I knew how,
it was way out of tune.
When no one was around I’d tap a few
notes out. It hurt me to hear
Working on the road one day
I heard piano music form
this summer camp for girls,
a girl that worked there playing
so the campers could sing. Well, Sir,
I lay my shovel down
and walked right in. Afterward
she played some just for me.
To make a long story short, I married her —
well, not right then. Bought some tuning forks,
been tuning, off and on, fifty years.
Why am I working here, mopping
classroom floors at Seventy?
That’s another story, Sonny.
There’s some things in life
having perfect pitch don’t fix.
Yes, this really happened. The comments from the college janitor are as true as the poetic structure allows. If I wrote short stores not poems what he told me that late lunch afternoon could be a short stories. You can visit the CCC hiking trail up Pleasant Mountin is still a fine hike. Wsst slope of the mountain off route 202 between Bridgton and Fryeburn.