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Works for Trumpet
Paul Hostovsky


We are listening to Alison Balsom
play Bach." "Do we have to

listen to this?"" Amber, eleven,

buckled up in the passenger seat,

balks, bucks. We're late for school,

her backpack, lunchbox, and violin

ride mutely in the back. She looks

down at the CD box, makes a face:

""Who is Botch, anyway?""

Her violin leaps violently to the floor

as I brake for a stopped school bus.

""It's not Botch,"" I tell her. ""It's Bach,

only the greatest musician who ever lived,

that's who."" She gives the box a second,

closer look." "Bach is pretty. How old is Bach?"",

frowning at the photo of Alison Balsom

on the cover. ""That's not Bach,"" I tell her.

""It's Alison Balsom. On trumpet. And yes,

she is pretty."" Amber raises her left eyebrow,

then stitches it to its twin. ""A girl

playing the trumpet?"" And I can hear

the wheels turning, tuning, inside her head

as the school bus trundles dumbly along

and I follow close behind. ""There aren't

any girls who play trumpet in my school.
Only boys."" And Alison belts out another

string of impossibly gorgeous arpeggios.
And Amber looks out the window, scratches

her head. She is listening. I don't say
a word, pull in behind the school bus, park,

and we sit there for a long time, the violin

on the floor, the trumpet in the air, Alison

Balsom breathing Bach, breathing beauty,

Amber late for school and listening hard.


From The Bad Guys (FutureCycle Press, 2015).
Used here with the author's permission.



Paul Hostovsky starting writing poetry in the fifth grade, inspired by his novelist father. Today, he is the author of more than a dozen books and his award-winning poems have been featured in a wide variety of print and online journals. Paul lives in Boston, where he is a sign language interpreter. Learn more about him at



Post New Comment:
Really like this poem. I played trombone even as an adult--started in 7th grade, so the music, the girl, Bach, Wow!
Posted 04/11/2016 10:42 PM
Lori Levy:
Great poem. Brings up memories. I was one of 2 girls who played trumpet at my school....
Posted 04/11/2016 06:06 PM
Mary Lou Taylor:
Such a special poem. So good it's being emailed to my granddaugter, who plays the clarinet.
Posted 04/11/2016 04:02 PM
wonderful as always, Paul. Just read it to my 15 year-old daughter who plays tenor sax:)
Posted 04/11/2016 03:47 PM
Ross Kightly:
When asked what advice he would send to the Future some pundit (whose name has evaporated from my 'mind') said: 'Listen to Bach. Everything will be all right.' As this gorgeous poem shows!
Posted 04/11/2016 03:31 PM
A delightful story/poem about how children learn to love music. A special gift for a lifetime.
Posted 04/11/2016 02:56 PM
Marilyn L Taylor:
This is really magnificent. Thanks so much for posting, Jayne. Blew the top of my head off.
Posted 04/11/2016 11:22 AM
wendy morton:
a story, a poem. Music.
Posted 04/11/2016 10:40 AM
Gilbert Allen:
A tender, charming narrative poem.
Posted 04/11/2016 08:51 AM
I like that "listening hard." "Breathing Bach" is a good way to start the day. Enjoyed this. (I had a similar experience with Balsam's Haydn concerto cd and a high schooler...)
Posted 04/11/2016 08:07 AM
Just listened to some Alison Balsom. More wow! Thanks
Posted 04/11/2016 07:35 AM
Lordy, yes and yes again!
Posted 04/11/2016 06:31 AM
Paul, That was beautiful! Many thanks...
Posted 04/11/2016 02:22 AM

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