Familiar Sounds

Image of Short Fiction & Poetry Contest - 2019

I apply just the right pressure to the doorknob

And it clicks open

I step inside, to the sound of an electric guitar 

And a woman’s voice

I forbid you maidens all, who wear gold in your hair

From traveling to Carterhaugh, for young Tam Lin is there

It’s a little tinny, our radio is old

But I recognize it

But tonight is Halloween, and the faerie folk ride

Those that would their true love win, at Miles Cross they must bide

I see my dad sitting at the kitchen table

I sling my bag into a chair and give him a hug


I’m lying on the couch, book in one hand

One ear cocked

I feel so good I’m gonna break somebody’s heart tonight

I don’t remember the name of the song

I know the singer though

My dad is kneading bread in the kitchen

His head nods along, familiar

Like the notes are written into the

Lines of his hands

And I feeeeeeel so good!

I tap my foot as I read


By my mom’s decree

Christmas music shall not be played until December 1st

El lobo rabioso la quiso morder,

Mas Dios poderoso la supo defender;

I ask my sister to pass a corn husk

I’m not very good at making tamales

None of us are, but we try

Ríu ríu chíu, la guarda ribera, 

Dios guardo el lobo de nuestra cordera

I spread the masa, the fillings,

Wrap the husk and tie it with string


It’s after 10

I’m upstairs in my room with the door half closed

I stop what I’m doing for a moment to listen

Exultate Deo adjutori nostro

Jubilate Deo Jacob

I can tell from the faint plink of the piano that it’s my Mom

Downstairs, practicing

I imagine I can see the sheet music in the dark

The latin etched above it like a spell for a dreamless sleep 

Sumite psalmum, et date tympanum; 

psalterium jucundum cum cithara.

Eventually she comes upstairs,

Familiar footsteps passing by my door

I drift off to sleep

With Palestrina drifting through my ears


I open the door and slip into the car

It clicks as the lock engages

“Can I play something?”

I see the bad moon a-rising

I see the trouble on the way

I don’t remember when I first heard this song

I used to not even know what it was called or who sung it

I asked my dad once and he told me

Don’t go out tonight, cuz it’s bound to take your life

Theeeeere’s a bad moon on the rise

I play it sometimes, when I’m feeling lonely

I close my eyes, and I can smell bread baking

I breathe easier, fall asleep safer

And count notes instead of sheep