Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Rebound Banjo

by Paul Hostovsky

She left him for her ex
who played the 5-string banjo
in a bluegrass band and whom
she’d left for him—and not
three months before—for a short

sweet-smelling spring,
wound him like a string around
the tuning peg of her index,
touched him and he stiffened,
and he sang. And he broke

down and wept when she went back
to her banjo-playing ex
like a second thought about
a second fiddle, a repeating
chorus or refrain. So he went out west

to forget her. But he couldn’t forget—
he saw her everywhere, saw her hands
in the hands of strangers, saw her hair
on the heads of strangers, saw her breasts
in the shapes of the Grand Tetons

high against the big Wyoming sky
at twilight. And on a side street
in Jackson, he saw it in the window
of the pawn shop, its slender neck adorned
with mother-of-pearl inlay,

its fifth tuning peg indented like
a new paragraph, a new chapter,
its pale full-moon face a blank
slate. And he bought it for fifty bucks
which included the case, capo, strap, three

fingerpicks and a Mel Bay’s Learn to Play
the Five-String Banjo book. He was
motivated. To win her back, of course.
And of course he didn’t win her back.
But he did learn to play in a frailing way

“Cripple Creek” and “Old Joe Clark”
and “Sail Away Ladies Sail Away.”

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