Opus 75, Sestina in B-flat for the Glockenspiel

In the empty classroom, at sunrise, a girl

sits on the floor, staring at a glockenspiel.

She’s shredding the cuticles on her left hand

instead of starting to practise.

She doesn’t want to play —

not yet, if ever. The irritating sound

 

of her teeth clicking is the only sound

in the band room. The cranky girl

has been dropped off early so she can play

a bit alone on the glockenspiel

before her classmates come to practise,

instrument cases clutched in their chapped hands

 

like luggage. They have such sure hands,

she thinks, and she can hear the sounds

they make, the laughter in the practise

rooms that make her feel like a little girl.

She is a “late bloomer,” and like the glockenspiel,

she is awkward at the games they play.

 

Only it isn’t really play,

is it? It’s life. The boys put their hands

on the girls, who vibrate like glockenspiels,

with tinkling notes that sound

shrill and artificial to the girl.

But isn’t this how it’s always been practised?

 

And wouldn’t she appreciate it more if she practised?

The ones who are good at it think of it as play.

That’s what they think it means to be a girl.

But that’s not me. I have ugly hands.

I don’t know how to make the giggly sounds

they expect from me, except on the glockenspiel.

 

And what’s the point of a glockenspiel

if I can’t even concentrate and practise?

For some it’s music, for others only sounds.

Now here come my bandmates, ready to play,

and all I’ve done is chew my hands

into bleeding mallets. I’m more stick than girl.

 

Practice begins, and it’s time for the girl

to hoist her glockenspiel and exercise her hands.

Her imperfect self is on display. How does she sound?

“Op. 75, Sestina in B-flat for the Glockenspiel” from Complicity by Adam Sol. Copyright © 2014 Adam Sol. Reprinted by permission of McClelland & Stewart, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited.