My Mother Gives Me a Tape of My Father’s Dance Band
by Marjorie Maddox

My dead father plays boogie-woogie
throughout the house. Even in the back
yard, emptying the garbage, I hear his hands,
sixteen and agile, thumping, plinking, and do-wopping
along the thin tape that whirs in its recorder. What years
wind up in that casing, in the canal of my ear, in the curving aorta
pumping out his beat in my veins, in this aging staff of a body.
At sixty he still loved
his songs and stretched a broken pinkie to hit the notes.
My hands only snap and tap,
the bones bumping up against age. Still,
underneath flesh I know
something’s jumping. Joy cracks
his rhythm in notes too strong to stay
in the grave, too staccato to listen
to sounds good-daying
in the bass of a previous page,
two-stepping still, though long
long since played.

SOURCE: Previously published in The Montserrat Review and in Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (WordTech Editions).

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: With my father, William C. Maddox, around his sixtieth birthday (circa 1987) in Columbus, Ohio.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My father had his first heart attack at the age of 38. He lived until 65, dying after an unsuccessful heart transplant. (I write about this in detail in my book Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation). Despite all this, he was a person overflowing with joy, adventure, and humor. This was especially evident when he thumped out tunes from his old dance band, filling the house with boogie-woogie and be-bop. After his death, my mother made me a tape of his teen dance band from an old record. It remains a most prized possession!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sage Graduate Fellow of Cornell University (MFA) and Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, Marjorie Maddox has published 11 collections of poetry—including True, False, None of the Above (Poiema Poetry Series); Local News from Someplace Else (Wipf and Stock); Wives’ Tales (forthcoming 2016 Seven Kitchens Press), Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize); and Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award)—the short story collection What She Was Saying (2017 Fomite Press), and over 450 stories, essays, and poems in journals and anthologies. Co-editor of Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (Penn State Press), she also has published two children’s books with several forthcoming. Visit her at