When Paul Flew Away

It was the same as always
Paul opening the big, black lung
of it with that worried look
while the cats watched
from under the stove,
but when he closed
his eyes and begun to sink
down between the straps
of his bib overalls,
it was like he died. Except
the accordion was still breathing
a waltz between his hands,
except he called back
to us every so often
from wherever he was, “Shit.”
Which meant everything
he had ever known
in his life up to that
moment, but this song.
No some sock-drawer
music of getting a tune out
and then rummaging
for the chord to match,
but together, exactly like
he was breathing the thing
himself. No stomping
either, just Paul twisting
like he was after some deep
itch, only right then
he was starting to lift
out of his chair. Slowly
at first, like flypaper
in a small breeze, then
the whole enormous weight
of him hanging over the sink. God,
he was happy, and I
and the kids was laughing
and happy, when all
at once it come to me,
this is it. Paul is leaving
the old Barcalounger
stuck in second
position, and the TV on top
of the TV that don’t
work, and all my hand-paintings
of strawberries as if he never
said this would be Strawberry Farm.
“Hey!” I said out in the yard
because he was already going
right over the roof
of the goat shed, pumping
that song. “What about you
and me?” And Paul
just got farther and smaller
until he looked like a kid
unfolding paper dolls over
and over, or like
he was clapping slowly
at himself, and then
like he was opening up the wings
of some wild, black bird
he had made friends with
just before he disappeared
into the sky above the clouds
all over Maine.

-Wesley McNair