From the dusty trunk of his battered Ford
he fumbles and finds a bruised violin
without a case, wipes it off on his sleeve,
says, Aha, a Stradivarius for a young genius.

The World War Two vet, smelling of gin
and cheap cologne, has studied my hands,
widened his eyes, and told my mother
I was a natural, born to be a great violinist.

I stick my hands in my jeans, refuse to
accept his offer of the cruddy looking thing.
Besides, I know it needs a bow to make it
sound like a cat was being crucified.

A bow is found, the deal struck, and
Mom forks over fifteen ones, bills she
keeps hidden in case. In case of what?
I guess in case a Strad salesman shows up.

An extension of the deal is the three
full-hour lessons she signs me up for,
another fifteen dollars, a fiver paid to my
teacher before launching me as the new Heifitz.

Heifitz, Schmeifitz, the neighbors have
shit fits when I start practicing on hot
summer afternoons, all our windows open
so we can hear one another's conversations.

After the third and last lesson, mercifully
they sign a petition, present it to Mom,
who looks downcast at first, then pleased
that she too will be spared further agony.

I return to third base on the twelve-and-
under team, which goes undefeated that year.
All my pals nickname me Heifitz, unaware
he played violin, not third base for the Skunks.

Bill Roberts is a retired nuclear weapons consultant, still holding out for the day all WMD disappear for good.
A thousand of his poems have appeared in nearly 200 small-press and online magazines over the past 15  years.
Bill gives a seminar on how to write a poem a day in 15 minutes, then take it to market. He lives almost invisibly
in bucolic Broomfield, Colorado. Contact him at


When the vets came back from World War Two, many of them had trouble finding jobs. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? One creative guy came to our house one early summer's day, trying to sell music lessons and the instruments (pretty beat up) to go along with the lessons. Thank goodness our homes were all together, rowhouses, and air-conditioning was in its infancy or I might have struggled on with my violin, certainly not a Stradivarius. Our good neighbors came to my rescue, much to everyone's relief, and sent me back to third base with the Skunks. These days, I love the violin - Gil Shaham, Nadja Solerno Sonnenberg, Joshua Bell - can't hear enough of it at symphonies
and on CDs, just thank my lucky stars it was recognized early I wouldn't be appearing in Symphony Hall.



Copyright 2009