The Soprano Listener
                                                            for Winnie

When she was eight and cross-eyed her teacher stood her against

the enormous auditorium wall with several others like herself.

She stood behind her glasses while everyone sang around her,

proud of her new title, “Soprano Listener,”

and wondered where the voices went when

their echoes finally died.

 

Her mother brought her to the Relief Office monthly where

she had to listen very hard, then repeat soundless words, slowly,

so her mother could read her lips.

 

Her mother was deaf, she tone-deaf.

She owned a doll and a shoebox but no dressy dresses.

 

When she was eighteen, she married a school teacher with a ukulele

who taught their children to read music when they were each eight years old,

while she wrapped left-over pot roast and hummed a different song,

a song without words

for the Soprano Listener.

 

On school day afternoons she hung the laundry out to dry and

watched the water-heavy clothing plummet to the alley

with a slap.

 

Two years after her divorce she woke her kids at midnight

for a pancake party.

When she was middle-aged her eldest son died.

She listened to the rabbi's litany, to the office ladies she had worked with for seventeen years, and, finally to her little grandson who asked if his dead uncle

had any bones left.

Copyright 2018  Rachel Levine