Lincoln's Harmonica Player

On the train to work today,
I met President Lincoln’s Harmonica Player.
She was old and dirty with grime covering her face,
And her skills had faded with time,
But she swore she played Amazing Grace at his funeral.

“I’ll never turn down a dollar,
But my account is full,” she said as passengers boarded.
“It was my music that freed the slaves,
And that is a job that pays plenty no matter how many years later.”

She blocked the aisle of the car
With her cart of plastic bags and bottles.
“Don’t scorn me,” she grumbles at the business suits.
“Or I will teach you nothing I know. And I know a lot.”

Some people laugh, others move away.
I take a seat nearby to listen. I like history lessons.
She looks old, but good for someone nearly 200 years old.
She sees an audience and readies her instrument.

Her lips glide on the harmonica for a moment,
“I need a piano. Who here has my piano?”
Most ignore her, but I oddly wish I could play,
Just to see where it might take her.

She forgets the piano and plays ahead.
It doesn’t sound like much more than noise,
But when she pauses and rasps, “How sweet the sound . . .”
You know she means it.

I hand her a dollar at my stop—the same stop as hers.
She smiles and tucks it down her coat with the harmonica.
I walk the opposite direction and hear her preach on.
She has a story to tell—true only to her.
But I am glad I stopped to listen.

Jim Holmes 11/30/07

Lincoln's Harmonica Player

James G. Holmes

Washington, United States

  • Artist

Artist's Description

Amazement at the ups and downs of the human experience and the strange way they are revealed in a 5 minute random encounter.

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