Robbi at 3, 1956, with mom and dad
Musical Chairs
by Robbi Nester

seemed such an innocent game
to everyone but me, though I was six
and should have loved the feel
of moving quickly round the chairs,
stiff rustling party skirts and petticoats
in every color above black patent shoes.

The 45 spun round and round
and we did too, skipping
and singing, pretending
not to care. But soon,
my breath came fast,
heart banging in my chest
as if it wanted out.
I eyed the others,
set to leap
before the jangling music
stopped mid-chord
and knew I’d be the one
left out, too small and slow.

Maybe that’s why
I bit the birthday girl,
making a deep red crescent
in her arm, surprising everyone,
especially myself.
The music stopped, for good
this time, and I went home
without my cake and ice cream.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author at age three with her parents.

robbi nester

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robbi Nester grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is the author of Balance (White Violet, 2012) and A Likely Story (Moon Tide, 2014) and the editor of The Liberal Media Made Me Do It! (Nine Toes, 2014).