2022 First Place

The parcel
(from Windows in Newcastle’s Central Arcade)

by Maggie Davison

In Sheet Music, I watch the man’s feet
scale high shelves, arpeggios on rungs,
as he brings one buff, fraying folder
after another to the counter,

unties the ribbons and hands the pieces,
with their smell of new books, to Mam
to scan and hum. An age passes between
her waist and broad-shouldered mahogany

until decisions are made and his pencil
scratches a white pad: after all the pluses,
a minus and a purr from her
at her piano teacher’s discount.

Shiny covers wrapped in brown paper,
tied in string, knotted, with a loop.
The cash register peals, big numbers jump
in front of my eyes from clefless glass.

We carry the parcel home on the bus.
It’s only opened after every crumb
leaves the tea table. Dots, squiggles
and foreign words are magicked

into melodies under her fingers.
I love hearing them the first time, dread
the next, as I’m told to stay quiet in a corner
during lessons. And I must not laugh.