Oliver de la Paz


The Boy With the Fiddle in a Crowded Square


The young are so talented, my father says to me
as he palms a bill to drop into the boy’s violin case.
Early, and the market is a riot with greens. Each stand
parades its wares while other parents cart by

with children in their strollers. My son is not listening
to the music—he’s off somewhere in his dreaming mind
where anything can be hidden and people are ghosts.
I drop a dollar at the musician’s feet and he gives a light nod,

the market traffic weaving around us like luminous boats.
In my head, I’m writing a letter to my father, explaining
how every mistake I’ve made is palpable now,
the way the clouds take on human flaws with the wind.

I’m telling him the long fly balls I missed in little league
are dropping, one by one, at my feet. I’m penning
the collapse of each of my coliseums because right now,
son-hood is a promise of ruination and this violin song,

the hymn of its republic. Tonight, I will write a real letter
to my son. It will reveal footprints on each proving ground
and halve every distance I’ve traveled. The earthen line
of my pen will hum as my son’s eyes read each line.

He will know each disappointment is a note like the wind
passing through the cable of a bridge. Each song
will rise, and hold the people in this market above
ragged waters. They will know how to listen. To parse

each other’s hearts by bending forward as my father does now,
smiling at the fiddle player, then at my son. Slowly,
the soloist’s notes thin into sliced apples—the crowd’s
polite applause surging, then gone.


Oliver de la Paz is the author of three books of poetry: Names Above Houses, Furious Lullaby, and Requiem for the Orchard. He is the co-editor along with Stacey Lynn Brown of A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry. A recipient of grants from the Artist’s Trust and NYFA, he co-chairs the Kundiman.org advisory board. He teaches at Western Washington University and lives in Deming, WA.