You wore your cello in your brown backpack, tall as yourself,
another for the trip around the world when you were 84.
“But Juliette, who are you acquainted with in Mongolia?”
“Oh, well, you know, people are nice to old ladies.”
You didn’t want a celebration of your life,
embarrassed, I think, perhaps recalling
those complicated intricacies of the living,
as in the gathering for a woman friend,
when we played quartets, during which the deceased
was lauded by a widow, and you whispered
“but what she doesn’t know is that her husband
slept with the deceased for thirteen years!”
and chuckled to hear of my love travails,
no matter how exasperating, “poor you,” you said,
“I wouldn’t want to be in love with him: he is
wonderful but oh the worry!” though you didn’t seem to,
certainly not that winter night when you revealed
your illness and your certain death which yes did come to pass
just one year later: “I don’t care, I saw my parents die
of it and it’s all right.”
Or was that because the Shostakovich had just then
been enveloping our ears,
as up the wooden walkway so many times through your
garden with those strawberries and roses, carrying our instruments,
we revived the soul of Brahms, or Haydn, or Beethoven.
What saturation––Schubert, Bach and Schumann,
that wooden ceiling above your dining table
fronting the large window into wild rhododendrons
was anointed with, and what aromas!
Quartets and supper, the steamer fastened upside
down its metal petals splayed over a 100 watt bulb,
Ron’s paintings on the wall, and a feast of music
to sight read through, “The cellist,” you said,
“is the only one who knows what’s really going on,”
and it’s true, especially with you who also seemed
to know everyone, hardly ever dining alone,
“Come have supper,” even two weeks prior to when you died,
so many friends, old and new, far and wide.
One May, not game to do the Schubert Trio we performed
the Schnittke for a master class, so complicated, rich
and strange but you were game and when I asked your age
you told me seventy five.Then two weeks later,
rushing up to me at Heider Field you hurriedly announced
that you had some good news and some bad.
“The good news is that I am only 73!”
“The bad news,” you eyes twinkled and your words heavy
with laughter, “is that I’m losing my mind!”
Your June birthday anticipated seventy four
so when I had asked, you added up one more.
Well, now it’s April and fourteen years have passed
and rain, rain, rain, the first spring came without you.
The weeds are popping, the ceanothus blossoms blue, and the grass
everywhere shoots up its tiny lives like sixteenth notes
sprinkled on the damp earth: that ground, that cello
“figured bass” your sound that many of us yearn for
your blithe spirit much like the vernal equinox
just as your last words, surrounded by the blooms of loving
you had gathered to you through the years,
“I’m so happy,” is the way we always felt living our lives near you.
Juliette, you said it and believe you me, it’s true