Attic Drummer by Claire Keyes

Attic Drummer

Where else could he practice
and not drive us all mad? Then the sad quiet
when he disappeared. In the attic,
he could let it rip playing the drums.
When he no longer played, we all felt his absence.
I was just a child. He played in the school’s marching band.
His story came to me in pieces. I knew, without saying,
that when he practiced at home, something freed up
in him, something hidden released.

I struggled to learn his story.
A girl snatched from the street? the call to the police?
Whatever freed up in him, hidden urges released.
My playful brother found guilty of a crime
and sent to jail. Later, much later, I learned
he and his pals grabbed the daughter of the chief
of police. My mom visited him in jail.
Back home, she cried in disbelief.

My father, grim and sad, took the blame as his.
Around the house, shame and the painful void
of a son and brother deeply missed.
We counted the months until his release.
And that girl? Nightmares. Questions about trust. Fears
about boys, about cars. About boys in cars.


Claire Keyes is the author of two collections of poetry: The Question of Rapture (Mayapple Press) and What Diamonds Can Do (WordTech). Her chapbook, Rising and Falling, won the Foothills Poetry Competition. A second chapbook, One Port, was recently published by Derby Wharf Books. She is Professor emerita at Salem State University and her poems and reviews have been published recently in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Turtle Island, Gyroscope Review and Tipton Poetry Journal. She lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts where she conducts a monthly poetry salon.

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