Learn Harmonica Today

This entry is part 27 of 37 in the series Bridge to Nowhere: poems at mid-life


Start without the harmonica. Scarves, messengers, sections of a tangerine: anything can teach you grace. Hold a small bird & blow on it as if it were the first feeble flame in a trash burner with rain already starting to fall. Draw a map of everywhere you can walk with one tapping foot. Because honey is golden, we think we know how it will taste, but the tongue has other rendezvous. Reach without looking into a drawerful of knives, patting gently with your fingertips as if it were the head of a large dog. Practice saying, This one’s for the ladies. Anyone who knows how to breathe knows how to play.

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12 Replies to “Learn Harmonica Today”

  1. Lots of vivid instructions, which could be hazardous, at least the knives! I have to run the harmonica by Richard. He knows that harmonica is more than just random breathing, having made a study of the art for years and years.

  2. I love the honey line…and the idea that it is as easy as breathing…who hasn’t just picked up a harmonica and breathed in and out to create their own cacophonous melody?

    1. Thanks, Donna and Cynthia. Yeah, to some extent I think it might actually be good psychology to pick up an instrument with the attitude that you already know how to play it; the trick is to get better.

  3. Love this, Dave. It especially resonated because I keep a blues harp on my desk as a pretense that I actually know how to play it. I like to take it out front in a very very light rain (preferably in the dark, preferably after a drink or two), hopscotch on the driveway, sing “Mr. Tambourine Man” badly and blow random notes. The vibration on that underneath part of my upper lip is exhilarating. Maybe it will rain tonight. . .

  4. I sometimes dream that I can play the piano beautifully, which is far, far from the truth. (I can also fly and speak many languages fluently!) Even in the the dream I’m quite surprised as my fingers scamper over the keyboard, and lo and behold, I can play! So compelling is the illusion that occasionally when I wake I pop down to the kitchen piano to try out my new-found skills, but apparently they evaporate with consciousness.

    Lovely writing Dave. I notice how when you touch on music as a subject… as in the banjo series… so richly do you conjure the notion of it that I can hear the instruments underlying the words.

    1. Glad you thought so, Clive. It sounds as if you’re a pretty lucid dreamer—wow! Well, better to be able to play the piano flawlessly in your dreams than not at all. When I was a kid, I was often convinced I knew how to levitate for the same reason.

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