John Paul Davis

My Father’s Record Player

It required tenderness
as if it were a newborn
animal or a god.
I watched my father
slide the discs, black
& shining, from their sleeves,
place them on the platter
& toggle the switch
to set them both spinning.
It had its own ritual & arcana.
He had learned how to know
just where to lay the bent
arm that pointed with one
thin finger on the outer rim
of record, silently carouseling.
Even if the receiver
was not turned on I could put
my ear close to the tiny
mountains & valleys as the needle
passed over them in its decaying
orbit & hear the music. What could write
in such a minuscule & perfect
language? The machine
had to be cared for, cleaned,
occasionally repaired, & my father
tended to it like a high priest
over an altar. I touched
it & it was humming warm
like my own body. It had an aroma
of wood & oil & was older
than I was. Mussorgsky,
Kansas, Bach, U2, they all
swelled in our living room.
My father would sometimes sit
& do nothing but listen,
glasses off, eyes closed
as if praying. Maybe
he was praying. It was never
entertainment, never decoration.
It was pilgrimage. It was delight.
A doorway. Nourishment.


image1John Paul Davis still loves machines that make music. His poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies. His first book, Crown Prince Of Rabbits, will be published by Great Weather For Media in Autumn 2016. You can find out more about him at