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Sandra Newton

A Quartet of Etudes


I was a schoolchild before

They put instruments in children’s hands

To foster love of music

Yet only encouraged denial in most:

A wish to not be remembered as unmusical.



I did not escape a mother’s fantasy

Of a talented daughter:

At seven, I labored at a piano

Each afternoon informed by my sullen music

And reluctant practice.

Every Saturday morning until puberty

Mrs. Mayer like a metronome

Enforced my tempo with a pencil

Clicking out the beat

For my imprisoned fingers

While my friends tittered in another room

Waiting for my hour’s sentence to be over.



I find comfort in these hard keys

A melodic breaking of lonely silences

In a house of ghosts

And cats who allow me a respite

From adoring them.

I caress these keys of memory

Still clumsy with tempo

And heedless of the demands of pitch.

I play on in blithe ignorance of rectitude

Hearing only the solace of remembrance:

This is a way of blissful lethargy.



The piano surely remembers me:

As a child I banged upon its immutable keys

In anger and resentment

Of lost hours on a playground

And in the adventuresome streets

Where nothing was certain

Except the unexpected.

As a new-born teen I imagined

A transformation

(not unlike my own puberty)

From immovable piano to

Popular and portable accordion

That would win friends

And ensure celebrity

(It never happened for either of us).

But not until later

Learning to maneuver the shallows

Of insistent life

Did I yearn for the solitude of the piano

A neutral acceptance

A hard and stoic presence

Waiting impassively for me.

Ergo Sumus*

You are the ghost who has quietly walked into my life

And decided to stay, watching and smiling,

Always nodding in approval, because

This is the life you meant for me

When you were already planning the future,

And I was carelessly lapping up the sunshine

With no thought for inclement weather.


I believed our time glorious and languid.

Stretching long past dark into daybreak

When streaks of delight painted our skies,

And only by accident did I sometimes notice

A look of calculation in your eyes,

Measuring the breadth and scope of our time

That you knew was bound to end.


So now we have long and wordless conversations

About my foolishness and your wisdom.

About how you are the miracle

That cures the decay of my soul.


*therefore, we exist

Jim Zola 675DC4F9-2C15-4B6C-B6DA-57E28D416349.jpeg
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