An Accordion for Your Eightieth Birthday

                                    For my father

Now that I think of it, I should send you 

Eighty songs, and eighty flowers, just one candle

Because we have one life only

To make up for that accordion you so much

Wished to have all of your life

First from your father, and then secretly

Probably from anyone who would have given it

To you. I only learned about this wish of yours

This year and you know, I dreamed

That perfect, shiny, echoing instrument.

But it turns out it would be too dangerous to ship

From Ireland, or France, let’s say

All the way to Grand Rapids, Michigan

Where you now have difficulties breathing

Just a day before your birthday—but nothing serious—

Only a passing clogged up nose. The accordion 

Is like an egg, you see, you cannot really ship it

You bump it a bit and the sound cracks.

But I have been researching and even dreamed 

To take a journey to those places in the country

Where artisans make them from special wood,

Turn that tree into a lung, a back and a chest

That sing when you coax them with your touch.

I can see you, a little boy sitting next to the village

Accordion player, tapping your foot, wanting

That box for yourself, wanting the music inside

And God, what life has given you instead.

But here we are on your eightieth birthday, Dad,

I am so proud you made it through famine, prison

Labour camps, exile, cancer, and lately isolation.

I am so proud I am saying, and I am so poor

(a poor poet, you can laugh, yes, dreaming dreams

Like warm loaves of bread, that accordion for you)

Oh, God, I am proud you are turning eighty 

Tomorrow, please accept this accordion

This year, as generously as you accepted

Everything else life has given you 

Instead of what you wished for—some times

(Like you) I think dreams might count for more.

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