THE PIANO PLAYER
(originally published in the New Laurel Review)
She is small and curved:
like a dry snake, or a memory.
She lives in a house for unwanted ones.
This is the place of knowledge.
As her mouth opens toward me, it is like a babe’s;
tongue stuck out to be fierce —
provoking merely pity.
This is the time of changing.
The light against her skin reveals too much use;
her gown is blue and white.
She pats my arm, adjusts her jade rosary.
This is the look of eternity.
They all hated her, before —
they thought her shameless, a malingerer.
Slowly, she revealed her innocence.
This is the path to forgiveness.
She danced, she danced, she danced lightly:
on feet made of dust.
Countless boys adored her, gave her flawless jewels.
This is how she remembers.
The house, three stories, the carpet in the grand library,
now, moth-eaten, rolled to save space in the attic.
She sings row, row, row your boat, her feeble arms rotating.
This is the way of all possessions.
She sat with her sisters on the dark mahogany furniture,
waiting for the sun to cure them.
They fled — too hasty — their heritage in barrels, drowned.
This is what is meant by family.
Chocolates, bacon, a stuffed rabbit,
are all in the world she desires.
When she is happy, the dead live again.
This is the blessing of forgetfulness.
And as I rise, she purses lips,
rattles beads, plucks knitted blanket,
asks for the next interlude, hushed.
This is the harvest of love.