Out of Tune

This entry is part 33 of 34 in the series Breakdown: The Banjo Poems


Round peg in a round hole:
too cozy! It only needs to relax
the slightest bit & the whole
song fails, like a machine
with one slipped gear.

We hold our breaths then
for the single-string walk,
up up up up to pitch. Ah!
And the tune clatters back to life
with a whoop. (One hates to see
John Hardy get away.)

Rare as an heirloom,
particular as an orchid,
miraculous as spring water
flowing from a tap
& durable as a razor strop
is the banjo player’s ear.
It’s the only instrument
in the band that can’t
break down.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).


  1. Pegs over machineheads, a smooth unmarked fretboard over that guideline ladder, the fifth string coming up, all beautifully rendered here. Yuk-yuk that final line!


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