I listened to Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman.
I liked the keys’ silver superstructure,
and the ebony stick with its subtle bell,
and its tones – mellow, lustrous, shrill, caressing.
So, to and from school, I chose to pass
a second-hand shop with a clarinet
on display in its eclectic window.
I saved for a year. ‘No,’ said the man. Next day
it was gone from the display forever.
My daughter took up the instrument
unprompted. Her daughter has followed.
I like to think that an ancestor of ours
was clarinettist in a klezmer band
with a cymbalist and a violinist,
in Bialystok, Lvov, or Kishinev,
walking and playing from shetl to shetl,
marking life’s circle of weddings
and funerals with that joyous music –
before the world was set on fire.