Time listens.An old crow in the
young corn. Hungry.Patient.
Geraldine Maia Jones sits on the front porch steps, her bare feet planted on the boards of the sagging
stair, like they might never again stray from this place of her birth.Her red dress sulks
between brown knees ankles swollen from years of travel and heels.
The molecules of wood under her soles resonate with the vibration of the instrument at her chin. The amber violin’s sensuous form holds steady as rapids of Rachmaninov
flow under fluid fingering. She bows the white water tones into the windless sky.
She moans and pauses.The weather speaks Gershwin. She turns her face upward into the full flare of sun,
her forehead glistening.She adjusts the
violin and begins to pull the long, languid notes from the wood."Summertime."
Silver Brown’s hound dog howls from its yard down the deserted Sunday street. His chewed up ears hear overtones higher than silent stars hiding under cover of heat.
The angels arrive, the old
ones who have been here for centuries. They settle on top of the blossom-sown grass, glowing
like fireflies in the moist shade.They rest their
large, heavy wings with perhaps nothing better to do when good folks are
at church and bad folks are sleeping
on their couches, wearing yesterday’s clothes and last night’s liquor on their slow breath.
The angels have come to welcome her home."We hear you,
sister!" They say.Even as a baby, her mother declared, there
was no denying it, "That child done talk
to the Lord.See them eyes?"
Gera Maia has eyes the color of holy water, opals set in the gentle mahogany of her face. You can't just glance, you have to linger there; even if it is rude, even if you do get uncomfortable with yourself.
Those eyes can see straight to your secrets.You feel them make you flush with the homemade wine of shame, and grow lightheaded when she’s laying down a melody because the notes are all the oxygen in the room, and you have to breathe
them deep or swoon from the silences
It owns her, this music born in the belly of her unanswered soul.She feeds it like a mother cat takes her litter to her teats, until she is emptied,
sore and red.
She is a virtuoso.That’s what the fat
man said, the second cousin of the
Reverend White visiting from Atlanta, wearing a suit the color of elephant tusk and
sweating in the humid air from his own excitement.
He tells her daddy that Gera Maia is too good to
waste on some poor Baptist church
off a dirt road in the dead center of nowhere."That child is a virtuoso," he
says, his mouth damp at the corners from the weight of the
And her daddy lets her go to New York on a
scholarship. Every Friday, a postcard.Miss Liberty, the Empire State Building, carriages in Central Park.Her mama carries those dog-eared cards to all the neighbors’ back doors in the lazy hours of
Gera Maia doesn’t come home except for summers. She is full of talk then, hard to turn off.So much water pressure she is fixing to burst, so they let her refresh their
minds with that fine, cool spray about city life and music growing into its
Like summer squash so big you wonder how you’re going to eat it all and who you're gonna give some to before it spoils.Everyone is like a child then, happy and full of believing in something.
Gera Maia’s mama cuts a magnolia blossom and floats
it on water in her best glass bowl.She lays the food
out on a faded, blue cloth in the grass, shooing flies off the sweet
Then it's Chicago.Gera Maia doesn’t come home but once a year for Christmas."Too busy now." Her daddy frowns, remembering about nowhere. Voices raise one Christmas Eve to a place too tight for resolution.Lights stay on late, all night.
Five years of concert tours.Gera Maia doesn’t come home at all.Every so often, a post card; a quick,
expensive call. A lot of space between.Los Angeles, Boston, Stockholm, New York, London, Paris, Rome, Sydney, Moscow. Eventually, just a distance
But, Gera Maia is home today. Her fingers are buzzing with it, with the being back at her roots. She turns her spirit-water eyes to the old magnolia of her childhood.
It is past blooming.Tattered, cream-colored flowers sulk between oily green and yellowed leaves.
She gets to her feet.Slowly and with effort she moves through the thick silence she has
suspended. Digs her toes into the dirt.Stands heavy, completely in the tree’s cooling embrace, branches overhead, roots below.
She touches the aged bark, her palm on the marks she made when she was five, her brother holding her hand over the knife. That day, a fresh petal caressed her cheek.
Now, a wilted petal falls, glides down in the still air, landing on her graying hair. She feels its gentle weight, takes it in her fingers. Touches its velvet to her lips.She leans back against the trunk and eases into memory.
The polished maple of the stage at Carnegie Hall. The first time.Her knees unsure. The orchestra a tense net
of security and expectation. She feels the slick, cool silk of her gown begin to
cling to the small of her back.Alabaster to ebony.
The music is swollen with anticipation.She feels the taut pull of her imminent entrance.She fills her lungs. The orchestra falls silent.She drops her full emotional weight down into the bow.Down, into the strident chord.
Down, into the electric tension of the strings.High.Suspended. She streaks the silent aural abyss with the call of an eagle, the claim of a warrior.A thunderclap of timpani and horns lifts her solo onto the arc of a rising canopy of sound,
tossing her free
into the giddy atmosphere of Beethoven’s ethereal
mind. Her diamond notes cut the glassy space.She finds her grace over a rugged terrain of musical theory stretched to
its extreme edge.She glides with profound focus over the
glacial ice of each delicate passage.She is so young.She is so new. She could easily fall.She does not fall.
The remnants of her final notes are covered by an avalanche of applause.A crescendo of approval envelops her, the daunting embrace of three-thousand
strange hearts. She stands in triumph.She stands in tears.