1956, the Year My Sister, Using Her Ill Health Once Again, Blackmailed My Parents Into an Accordian

My mother even hated

the name of the store where she had to pick it up:

Lo Duca Bros.

She waited until dark

to smuggle it from her Olds Holiday trunk

into our house.

Every time my sister unsnapped

and opened it my mother ducked as if fruit bats

were flying from its pleats.

To my mother the accordion was an immigrant,

one of my father's relatives,

one that didn't speak ENGLISH,

one that was pierogi fat,

that wore a babushka and anklets

to church, one she thought she had

talked him out of writing to.

My sister would go out on my parents' suburban front

lawn between the maple & chinaberry tree

on the even, green, Bay Ridge, well-watered lawn

and practice “Lady of Spain.”

My mother imagined the clouds above

her house taking Lawrence Welk cutout shapes

that rained kolackys. Frankie Yankovic

was at her door. THE NEIGHBORS KNEW!

My mother hoped my sister would abandon the accordion

as quickly as she did her charm school, her twirling,

her water ballet and Mamie Eisenhower scrapbook.

My mother dreamt the Six Fat Dutchmen heard

all about her sick daughter and came

and taught her the “Too Fat Polka”;

all my father's unrecognized relatives came

from Czechoslovakia to see the Six Fat Dutchmen

and do the Slovenian twirl in twilight

under plastic, electric, Chinese lanterns

strung around my parents'

newly landscaped suburban lot.

My mother bribed my sister away from her accordion

with a trip to New York to visit Uncle Jack, a professor

who taught labor relations at Cornell,

Uncle Jack, my mother’s brother. It was what my sister

wanted all along. The accordion was her wardrobe door

to Narnia, New York.

While they were gone the accordion sat alone

as the night convent of Saint Mary of Czestochowa.

The accordion had rows of nubs of wonderful

black buttons. I wasn't big enough to carry it.

It was beauty. I imagined

it vast and pearl as a confessional,

gay as a Polkafest. I sat next to it;

I heard my sister's silent accordion stop playing the past.

It began playing music I didn't know yet. Years later

I'd call it Zydeco and dance to it on sweet, full summer

nights, on side city streets of the future

with holy card beautiful men

who loved nothing more than a woman

with an ear for a good accordion

and all the musics one can make.