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
(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.
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