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Read, Write, Talk, PLAY, SING. . .THE BLUES: unsung early literacy practices on my father's gui

“Your mother taught you,” is the official story, but the fact in my father’s fiction is clearly blending harmony unheard. Alto, tenor and bass. Maybe slow, but steady rhythm. Repetition.

9-42-1600 equals the hope that my voice can reach if it sings out and sings long.

Blues in the darkness, steaks, stars. They make their own sun come up.

My words will do this, someday, some dawn.

“Wouldn’t you like to sing the blues?”


“You talk the blues.”


Cold spring. Pelting rain.

Fiery concert hall with artificial hearths.

Balcony chimney. Kneading burly fingers.

Full upon the grain of music. Not thirsty but not drunk.

Massa dough. Piano key drip.

Cylindrical centered light without the clouds unless you count the curtain.

The mattress squishes, not foam nor feathers, but vibrating sound.

In front of a playgroup of parents I give my final aside, the explanation, example and empowerment for their home literacy practices. “I enjoyed this past 12 weeks. I learned from our experiences, but even more I was impacted by the value of my own experiences as structured by my father when he didn’t even know it.”


Rocked to sleep, but he keeps checking to make sure.

Hands pat knees.

Patty cake, patty cake.

Black shiny shape that guitar.

Web. Fingers climb it.

Itsy, bitsy spider.

Pick. Pick.

Blackbird, pick.

Fly away home in front of the rumbling storm

Handlike claw.

Caw. Caw.

“He skipped the nursery rhymes at bed, but we sang,” I continue, “With the radio in the car and to notes on his guitar. The oldies. Foreigner, and though my mom never liked her words, my favorite Pat Benatar.” Old 45s from long ago that spun round in my head long after the needle clicked. I would seek out his own endings to those beginnings when I skipped out to the raspberry patches. Sweat on his forehead, juice stain on his fingers all felt like the kiss of fairy dust alight. “This developed vocabulary,” I bid the price of recognition low in word count, but I know the worth of the gift.

“He credits my mother with the bedtime stories. He would have never thought to make so many library trips are words he said more than once.” The fairy spells and building blocks and imagined stories waiting since his childhood, saved upon a shelf. “Role play, dialogue. These are so important for narrative skill development. He may not have given me all the words but he built the space for me to use them.”

Roll without words. Without words no guide to know what I feel.

I feel?

I don’t know what to feel, what to listen for, no way to express what I’m missing.

Maybe I miss some notes, but the message’s tone is clear.

Soft swirl of heart. Whisper. Tap.

Tap. Strum.



Reverberation and clapping hands record the dream in air.

Night slips by and I can’t, even when I don’t mark time.

When you don’t have a mother, you need a fairy godmother.

Magic comes in any form you choose to see.

Heads, shoulders, knees and toes become twitching fingers.

There must have been.

A subconscious narrative before birth, before the library.

There must have been.

A subconscious vocabulary of guitar strings, tension and sweat

Once vocabulary without understanding.

Now, understanding without the words.

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