Blue Maraca

By Richard Widerkehr


Not a stone, not a rope,
but a musical note, all notes,
Mother—the first, the last
song we sang.


It beat time
on a beach south of Cancun
by a lime-green sea.
Linda bought it for you.


Music can be
a blue maraca,
if it wants to
shimmy its hips.


Sure, death can shake
its rattle with a bony hand,
the same hand
you pointed at me.


It can’t be black or white.
It’s blue, the way the sea
turned darker, blue
darkening, farther out.


Can it float? Your blue
maraca might slip
away, not even
the rasp of your breath.


What’s around it?
Some books on Linda’s
cedar chest. At night
it dreams—an old crone’s
fingers, her plainsong—a girl
from Yonkers, her patois.


Blue maraca, blue maraca,
why do I…?


What song beat inside
you before the craftsman
took you for his gourd?
What does the word
guerdon mean?


I pick up your blue maraca,
and we glide
by that lime-green sea,
arms outspread.


What sound? No rattle,
no rictus—but joy,
joyous laughter, a salt shaker
released, salt laughing.


This blue maraca,
made of lacquered wood—
you shook it like a question
with your one good hand:
Where did the air
go when you went?


Richard Widerkehr received his M.A. from Columbia University and won two Hopwood first prizes for poetry at the University of Michigan. He has two book-length collections of poems: The Way Home (Plain View Press) and Her Story of Fire (Egress Studio Press). Tarragon Books published his novel, Sedimental Journey, about a geologist in love with a fictional character. Recent work has appeared in Rattle, Floating Bridge Review, Cirque, Penumbra, Clay Bird Review, Grey Sparrow, Sediments, Crack The Spine, and Salt River Review. He reads poems for Shark Reef Review.