Guitar Lessons

My father asks me how often he should change the strings on his guitar.
Wait. Go back. I gave him that guitar, not a good guitar but good enough,
picked it up in a pawn shop hitchhiking in Canada. Go back some more.

I got off work on a Sunday morning in high school and headed to California
to see my dad’s cousin or somebody just because. When I called my father
to tell him what I was doing, all he asked was if I had my guitar with me.

Back to these days. Once a year, I say, knowing how little he plays now,
change the strings once a year.
And anyhow, he can’t even hear his own music anymore—

In the future: he isn’t my father just like the guitar is not my guitar. We claim possession so arbitrarily, like the stones we use to cross a creek. They’re never ours; they just lie in front of us until we believe the plan was they were meant for our
feet all along.

He hands me back the two sets of strings I had given him,
hands me back two years of playing,
hands me back a lifetime of strings for that guitar.

Casey Killingsworth has work in The American Journal of Poetry, Kimera, Spindrift, Rain, Slightly West, and other journals. His book of poems, A Handbook for Water, was published by Cranberry Press in 1995. He also has a book on the poetry of Langston Hughes, The Black and Blue Collar Blues (VDM, 2008). Casey has a Master’s degree from Reed College.

See more of Casey's work in 8.1