He sits, suited in black, with 88
keys at his command, and we fall silent.
He opens the lock of joy,
the lock of sadness,
the lock of elation,
the lock of tears,
the lock of laughter,
the lock of darkness,
the lock of light,
the lock of surprise,
the lock of compassion,
the lock of love,
and we peer through each door,
unable to enter fairly
unable to turn away.
As we walk out, we know
we have tasted Buddha’s promised truth
and we go off in search
63,999 remaining Dharma doors.
When I was twelve, I think,
maybe in the last days of eleven,
and in my third year of piano lessons
my teacher, Mrs. Schwarting, she
of no first name, and a steady hand
that could squeeze the muscle
of my shoulder, a taloned metronome,
gave me a small plastic bust
of Beethoven, told me to place it
on the piano, so that he could watch
my daily practice and insure
my eyes were on him, not the keys.
Ludwig is long gone, lost
in one of our moves, one less
gatherer of the dust of other activities.
Now, sitting on the bench,
flexing fingers demanding independence
I realize that his smile was one
of age, thankful for his deafness.
Previously published in Fox Cry Review, Vol. 23, 1997 and in PIF Magazine, Vol. 20, 1999.
Bill places his fingers
on the keyboard, nods
to the drummer and bassist.
God waves his hands,
demands heavenly silence
and unsurprisingly to you,
no one argues the point.
Even Evans, sitting
at God’s feet,
smiles and says
“it’s so nice to know
our legacy is safe,”
and turning to Blakey, adds
“Ain’t that so brother?”
in the face of autumn,
two garnacha, a piano,
bass, drums, her voice lifts
the weight of the sky
and we float up
on a melody, unchained.
In heaven George and Ira smile
and we, here, smile with them.
Mrs. Weiskopf lived in a small cottage
Mrs. Weiskopf taught piano in her living room.
Mrs. Weiskopf had no first name, even
checks were to be made payable to Mrs. Weiskopf.
Mrs. Weiskopf grew suddenly old, some said,
to full fit into her name, no one could
remember her ever being young.
Mrs. Weiskopf said I must always find Middle C,
that everything starts there.
Mrs. Wieskopf was not pleased when I said
that Middle C was key number 40 on my piano
and there was no middle key, only
a gap between E4 and F4.
Mrs. Weiskopf looked at me sternly
and ended my lesson early that day.
Mrs. Weiskopf was a great teacher.
I think of her each time I sit down
and place the doumbek on my lap.
The big man
caresses the bass
and the strings pour out
caramel and cocoa.
Ulysses strokes the skins
which sing the melody
and mind the rhythm.
The keys of the Steinway
whisper to him
play me, play me
and even the 89th key
in the song.
Kandinsky, Braque, Matisse and Degas
all stand patiently in the hall
wondering if anyone, this night,
will notice them as they always
seem to do, while Motherwell and Pollack
lurk around the corner, feigning
indifference, dreading being ignored.
The sound check is long ago complete
and the three men sit in the cafe
lost in the crowd, sipping wine,
a beer, a soda as the last of the meals
are consumed and people file out
and up the stairs to the auditorium.
Picasso stares up in wonder
as the piano comes to life,
carrying us all on a wave
that undulates across the strings.
The bassist crosses the bridge,
darts back, and we stare slack-jawed
as his fingers defy our eyes
and expectations. The drummer
brushes off our questions and solos,
content to carry the music
lightly in his hands as Calder
is left to twist gently in the breeze.