Nálí, Her Solo

next to her bed her instrument sleeps
covered for the night like a bird in a cage
night passes . . . . . . the light returns
she pulls the cover away
dust motes dance in the air
she tunes her loom
strums the white parallel lines
with a flick of her wrist
each string must vibrate
layers of notes grow upward
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she listens for the right pitch
inserts the percussion fork into
the parallel lines that lead upward
she pulls down mountains, stars, lightning, storm patterns
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she is mythic soloist, storyteller, mathematician
her concert transforms us
we soften like lambskin


Copyright © 2022 by Laura Tohe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 24, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I had been trying to write this poem for over a year, and then the listening aspect of the poem emerged. My grandmother was not only a weaver, but a musician. The preliminary steps she took were like a musician warming up her stringed instrument. The tamp tamp sounds of the weaving fork, as she moved it across the weft, brought back strong, aural-rhythmic memories. I could not remember when it didn’t soothe me, as I knew she was creating something beautiful, layer by layer, like notes rising, like she was doing a solo.”
Laura Tohe