inspired by “First Lessons” by Elizabeth D’Amico
In memory, long afternoons of practice
disassemble into scattered musical notes,
stray fragments of song. You recall
the nodding metronome, the disembodied alto
of the teacher’s monotone, your own
unruly fingernails clicking against polished bone,
the sense that you were stroking a hulking animal
into submission, that upright always calling on you
to run scales along its spine. Sometimes
those hours build a cage — each key’s long reach
a bar on your cell; each line of the staff
a splinter of whalebone to make you sit up straight.
Other times, you are certain you knelt
before an altar, hunched over in a prayer of arpeggios.
Years and miles have pulled apart the piano
and remade it — scales re-scaled, a dozen new brass screws
re-sequencing sharps and flats into a vaguely familiar shape
you’re not sure you can trust. Nest for songbirds.
Basket for the blown egg of each blue note.
Even now, even after all that crumbled or was bent,
the wires are still strung taut, still hum
when your wooden fingers touch them.