Grappelli’s Smile

"...Then twenty years swing by and I’m riffing chords on my father’s old D’Angelico, Grappelli’s photo clipped to the stand, an image captured the night he owned the ballroom stage, me on the dance floor..."

Any Good Poem

Richard Berlin, MD, shares his poem "Grappelli's Smile," which will be featured in the September 2022 issue of Psychiatric Times™.

Grappelli’s Smile

-from a photograph by Leland Mew, MD

My father liked to drop the needle

on his 33’s and strum gypsy jazz

with Django’s Quintette du Hot Club

de France while I played a Parisian kid

hiding behind the bar nodding time,

Stéphane Grappelli’s violin dancing

into the mix and making me smile

with a son’s joy when he falls in love

with the groove of his father’s rhythm.

Then twenty years swing by and I’m riffing

chords on my father’s old D’Angelico,

Grappelli’s photo clipped to the stand,

an image captured the night he owned

the ballroom stage, me on the dance floor,

light show throbbing through a grassy haze,

Grappelli so close I could trace his Cappa

violin’s grain when he coaxed the melody

on “La Mer,” eyes closed as if in prayer,

jaw thrust forward, tight lips turned down

in a survivor’s smile of hope, courage

and sadness I’ve seen a thousand times

on hospital rounds, like my father’s smile

the morning he dressed for his final surgery,

Leland’s photo on the night table,

the Quintette’s last gig blasting from his stereo,

my father playing air guitar with Django,

a Grappelli smile dancing him out the door.

Dr Berlin has been writing a poem about his experience of being a doctor every month for the past 24 years in Psychiatric Times™ in a column called “Poetry of the Times.” He is instructor in psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts. His latest book is Freud on My Couch.