Tuesday Poem: ‘Music’ by Amy Small-McKinney


I wrote a song in my sleep
I can’t remember.

Something about my body.
What music do you hear when afraid?

It was soft, but not too soft,
at times almost Vivaldi,

though no excessive optimism.
Partly Cohen, frogging his Hallelujah,

accepting the slightest of nothing.
Because I have written in my sleep,

because I am not a musician,
they were simple chords,

space between family
or space between notes—

Manacha lobbed into a Polish pit,
Ben, shushed inside a stinking ship—

the world’s dissonance
before Monk & I don’t know.

Now here I am—another aging woman.
What or who are these tunes that won’t leave me?

Hands that clap with the Barry Sisters,
as though those sirens would return everything.

If I could begin with hands.
In my dream, my hands floated away,

bright blue, almost aqua, and a black sketch of an animal
over my shoulder, everything floating,

as though we would never land safely.
Do you remember following music of a bouncing ball?

I cannot find my body.
It has become a wavelength of sound or the ting

of a triangle in the back row.
It has become blood captured behind a macula.

Everything once linear now swells.
I listen for my body as a burglar breaking in.

Tonight I will listen to songs about belonging.
There will be a guitar and one drum.

Some I will remember from long ago,
distracted in a hard chair.

Some I will hum or pretend to know,
because they are sweet songs about light and hearts.

I am trying to tell you something and I am afraid.
I never expected you to listen this hard.

I will wake you if I dream the song again.


This poem first appeared in the special blue collection (music) issue of Bluefifth Review, Summer 2012. You can see this poem and more poetry, art and flash here

Amy Small-McKinney has published two chapbooks of poetry, Body of Surrender (2004) and Clear Moon, Frost (2009), both with Finishing Line Press. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2004 and again in 2006. Her work has appeared in journals such as The Cortland Review, The Pedestal Magazine, upstreet, Rio Grande Review, SAND, Berlin’s English Literary Journal, MiPOesias, and LIPS Magazine. In 2011 she was the Montgomery County Poet Laureate and also participated in the collaborative project, The Poetry Dress, at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival. She is founder of the program, Finding Our Voices: Poetry & Resilience, using poetry to help others find their voices. Her first full-length book of poetry, Life is Perfect, is forthcoming from Book & Arts Press.



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5 Responses to Tuesday Poem: ‘Music’ by Amy Small-McKinney

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Wow, the image of the aqua hands floating away is so powerful, so surreal. I really love the honesty and the colloquial tone of this poem – particularly that second-to-last line: ‘I never expected you to listen this hard’. Stunning. Thanks for sharing, Michelle!

  2. gurglewords says:

    It’s a very honest open poem isn’t it. A song to growing older maybe…and beginnings of acceptance…
    ‘ Something about my body.
    What music do you hear when afraid?
    I find it vulnerable and moving. Really like the way Amy uses music as a vehicle to express herself in this poem. Thanks Michelle and Amy.

  3. Amy Small-McKinney says:

    Thank you for your lovely comments. I am so moved when readers respond as you both have here. & thank you Michelle. Amy

  4. Harvey says:

    A marvelous poem. I’m going to come back this week to read this again. The vocabulary here is extraordinary–‘macula’ is perfect. Thanks for this great poem.

  5. Thanks for stopping by last week, everyone! This is a special poem — thank you, Amy, for sharing it again with us.

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