Barbara M. White


You had to like dogs. Or at least not mind dogs.
Or be able at least to tolerate this particular dog.

Mainly you had to accept that at random moments,
Gracie would launch her soprano ah-woooooo,

aiming it high above the highest notes of your right
hand's Mozart or Bach. If she kept at it too long,

Harry might pick her up, ruffle her ears,
but Gracie alone decided on the time to stop.

On sporadic Saturdays, Harry taught me to think
in phrases, build them into a coherent sonata allegro

or weave them into a meditative fugue. I learned
to seek out repertoire whose reason for song

reached deep inside me, creating a pedal point
far below reason or the musings of my five senses.

Whenever Harry taught, Gracie stayed near.
It was Harry's piano tuner, a man alert to the tiniest

variation in pitch, who noticed that Gracie sang
always on either the tonic or the dominant —

the home key or the note that called
all others to return to the safety and repose

of home. Gracie, that wriggle of brown and
white and black, understood what was important.

            In memory of Harry McClure


for the class of 1958,
Brandeis University

The night Eleanor Roosevelt would speak
at Gen Ed S — it was our freshman year —
I had to go to the bathroom in the Student Union
before dinner. Afterwards I turned
the water on, heard the click
of a stall door opening. I added soap
to my wet hands, looked up to see beside
me at the sink — and full face in the mirror —
Mrs. Roosevelt.

For four years, I sang alto in the chorus
and attended every graduation,
every academic convocation.
Whenever Mrs. Roosevelt took part
in the procession, everybody stood
as she walked by. Her presence pushed us upright,
row by row by row.

Barbara M. White's poetry has appeared in Lilith Magazine and Innisfree. She has been a featured reader in the Takoma Park Library in Washington, DC, and the Takoma Park Poetry Series in nearby Maryland. She is a retired copy editor and has also worked as a Jewish educator, a free-lance writer, and (many years ago) a piano teacher.



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