Davydov Stradivarius by Laura Bernstein

“Jackie’s unbridled dark qualities went against the Davydov. You have to coax the instrument. The more you attack it, the less it returns.” –Yo Yo Ma

Yo Yo thinks he knows best
but he forgets I’ve been around
for hundreds of years, translated
so many sets of fingers
into unresolved chords. Jackie
wasn’t dark. She brought me alone
to stages before crowds arrived,
let my body breathe in
oak plank floors. I’d adjust & expand
to new air as she massaged scales up
& down my neck, faster & faster
until our cadences rang
through box seats. Jackie wasn’t dark.
Our work on Elgar stung listeners’ ears,
swelling from our fermatas—they’d hear
the last few notes for days. Jackie
would pick me up and rest
my body against her hip after each performance.
Jackie wasn’t dark—she was sick. By the time
she turned twenty-eight, she started to drag me
to the stage, my endpin left
a long scratch wherever we went.
Our last time playing together, she rosined
her bow. When she tried to blow off dust,
move on to me, her head crumbled
on my neck. Long blonde hair curled
around my pegs. Play for me, Davydov,
she managed to whisper, her breath grazed
against my strings. I saw her voice lift
out of her body, a gold bee glowed
in the air. I broke my string and lassoed
that bee into my scrolls, tucked it deep
inside me until my belly absorbed it
and glazed into auburn. I felt
her say thank you as her muscles
forgot how to work. Jackie’s cry still
vibrates inside me when Yo Yo sweeps
his bow across my bridge. He wants me to give,
all I can do now is take.
Laura Bernstein is an MFA candidate at Rutgers University, Camden. Her work has been featured in Spry Literary Journal, The Quotable, and Agave Magazine, among others. She lives in Bucks County, PA with her husband and daughter.