The John Robert Doyle, Jr., Prize
When cousin Bill was struck in the eye with a stick
pulled from his mother's gardenia bush,
the only green thing in her Gaston County red clay yard,
hell-bent on escaping the whuppin he knew would follow,
he hid under the house with his daddy's pack of hounds
and laid low for three days, eating scraps
thrown to the dogs by his mother, distraught
over her missing boy, while the eye festered, then died.
He wore a black patch the rest of his life
and long after the violin scholarship at Juilliard,
long after the years as first chair
with the North Carolina Symphony,
he drove a dusty Buncombe County road
to my mother's nursing home a week before her death,
picked up his bow, pressed his face into the old
rosewood violin in a way not to disturb the patch,
and music leapt from that damn fiddle
like some dervish loosed
after two hundred years, whirl and tumble,
climb, implode, then up again in pulsing spirals:
Abide with Me and Skip to My Lou,
Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair,
Mozart. He played Mendelssohn,
although she slept through it all.
He left Mother his credit card on a bedside table
which forever struck me as odd
since she froze into fetal position a year before.
Law, that man could make dead seeds green,
a nurse said,
any dead seed bloom again.