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Candice Kelsey

Dueling Violins

for Georgia Rae

I watched a video of David Garrett playing Istanbul—

Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee alongside Zeppelin’s Kashmir.

People in rows, hands smacking in rhythm,

children lifted high over parents’ heads,

flowers in their tiny hands. All is lively & civil.

The venue staff showed care for the fans.

I dreamed I was his violin. Smooth hourglass body gripped

tightly in deft hands. Him iconic black snapback, star of the camera.

Winter Solstice was the 29th day after my son turned ten. I misread

the calendar & forgot to plan a celebration. My daughter

forgets nothing. She brings food, gifts, friends, & ideas.

Her grandmother has been dead eight years. Someone

promised the grieving transforms from bitterness & loss

to warmth. Give it ten years. I find warmth

from nature’s gifts—loblolly pine, bullfrog, azalea.

I knew when my father died, I would see him in slanted sunlight

from thickest clouds: my father, river rapids & full moon.

My daughter now in college cannot hold her alcohol. It holds her:

Lifted high over my head & in emergency rooms

across the South I see the IV in her tiny hand

like a flower. My heart arranged in rows & prayers,

anything but civil: will the next time be fatal? My daughter,

my breath, forever duet inside me—public & private, like grief.

I continue her when I am happy, enjoying music, or

recalling important dates. I become the venue staff caring,

an arpeggio of checking her location on my phone well into the night.


CANDICE KELSEY [she/her] is a poet, educator, and activist in Georgia. She serves as a creative writing mentor with PEN America's Prison Writing Program; her work appears in Grub Street, Poet Lore, Lumiere Review, Hawai'i Pacific Review, and The Worcester Review among other journals. Recently, Candice was chosen as a finalist in Iowa Review's Poetry Contest and her third book titled A Poet just released. She loves 80s detective shows, Puccini, and dismantling fatphobia.


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