ETUDE

Today was perfectly ordinary
which is how I would have my days
and how they so seldom agreed to be.
I did pause and look at the Yamaha keyboard
and remembered that when the Court
of the Empress Theresa rejected Mozart,
he attended the symphonies of Haydn
as a form of consolation.
That reminds me that I, once,
played the piano not particularly well,
but with what my teacher said
was a great depth of feeling.
Haydn, who I love to this day,
had nothing to do with my quitting,
it was Handel and his Largo
from his opera Xerxes that was
my undoing, a burden to large
for my smallish hands to bear.
I did find a recording of the Largo
and listening, gazed at my hands,
and for a moment I wondered
if they might just have finally
grown sufficiently large.

DHARMA GATE

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.

LUDWIG

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.

CHARLAP

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?”

MIDDLE C

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.