I sat at a table outside an Irish pub, with a child I adored and a man I didn’t, in a resort
town in summer.
Another man sat on a folding chair attempting to entertain the diners with accordion
music. At first I wondered if he was a street person, so shabby was he. I heard the
waitresses call him Tool Moan.
How delicious, I thought. The accordion equals the tool, the music equals the moan?
Above, on the plaza,
a band (lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass, drums) played, loudly, a funk version of Jimi
Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile.” I wished I could hear the accordion music above the noise
but I couldn’t. Before we left home,
my mother had asked, as dinner conversation, “Are we moving through time or is time
moving around us?” “I think we’re moving through time, Mom”—I was full of my own
Actually time falls on us like a fine rain, almost unnoticed, soaking us to the bone.
Accordion music is the saddest music on earth: agree or disagree? I disagree.
Accordion music is delicate, like the feathers of snow on the mountains that surrounded
The man paid the bill. The child ran ahead. Delicate equals subject to damage (and
almost equals Celtic). “You have some competition tonight,” I said to Tool Moan as we
“I know,” he said. Later, back in the hotel room, I realized I’d misheard. His name was
Tout le Monde (equals everybody in French) . . .
Kathleen Ossip is the author of The Cold War, which was named one of Publishers Weekly’s best books of 2011; The Search Engine, selected by Derek Walcott for the American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize; and Cinephrastics, a chapbook of movie poems. Her new book, The Do-Over, is forthcoming.
“Tool Moan” was originally published in Cry Baby (TLR Early Fall 2013).