Self-portrait with Concertina
Which he cannot play, the leather bellows, the baffles
And straps, the mock-pearl buttons against the dark
And darker inlaid wood, a Victorian machine,
Designed so the worker might disappear in service
Of the intricacy that produces some small
Certainty: a buttonhook for a pair of spats, a stereopticon,
A tune for glass and fireside, for labor’s forgetfulness.
Lacking the long-suffering apprenticeship of misplaced,
Mistimed effort, lacking the foresight required
For push and draw, the release of air when the bellows
Must shift with speed, with silence, between
Phrases, he cannot lack self, all clumsiness
And confusion, no more he thinks,
Than a trick of memory, like naming a hornpipe
For a local beauty, or each object in the beloved room
Of mind after some novel idea. Yet even this machine
With use learns eccentricities of touch: a thumb’s smudge
Worn into the grain, a nick above the buttonhole
Where the forth finger flicked the stuck C#
Free of humidity or the simple fatigue of metal
Made to sound too often in concert:
An unsprung spring, a reed going flat.
He sees himself in the antique mirror in the hallway.
A blue of good intentions, singular, recognizable
By the jerky willfulness of his motion, which will,
He’s hoping, have no further end than a good tune played
Da capo until the dancers call it quits.